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1,043 Norwegian (NCL) Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

Whoever designed these ships most have been on some drugs. When you hold all your games and talks in the Atrium, which has future cruises, guest services and and tours, you are asking for trouble. You have to yell at the person you are ... Read More
Whoever designed these ships most have been on some drugs. When you hold all your games and talks in the Atrium, which has future cruises, guest services and and tours, you are asking for trouble. You have to yell at the person you are talking to. For a show in the Atrium, they put out folding chairs, pay all that money to sit in a folding chair. They have a very nice theater which is underused. Why not show a movie on a sea day. Food is now right bad. No taste, weird things and slow service, even if they remember who got what. We had 8 of us and they either forgot things or gave them to the wrong people. The paid restaurants were not much better, Japanese was good and Ocean Blue, might have been the best restaurant I have ever been in while on a cruise. Service Fantastic, food better then any other place on the ship. Footloose was great, the other shows not very good. Worst comedians that I have ever seen with the female comedian disgusting. Nice things, the cabin, although it was dirty when we arrived, the bathroom great. The crew very nice. When it takes an hour to board and close to two hours to get off there is something wrong. Our tour of LA was cut short. The tour was suppose to leave at 9 and we left at 11:15. Come on if you had a tour let us off first. Last time for this line. Just the little things that they make you pay for. Try another cruise line, if you want service and better food. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
I chose Norwegian because we cruised Mexico last year and just returned from a Panama Canal cruise. Both cruises have been enjoyable, but recent news, if true will make me think twice about cruising with them again. News is today that they ... Read More
I chose Norwegian because we cruised Mexico last year and just returned from a Panama Canal cruise. Both cruises have been enjoyable, but recent news, if true will make me think twice about cruising with them again. News is today that they are encouraging their sales force to tell people how safe it is on their ships and not to worry about Corona virus. To me, that is just plain stupid with the virus being most anywhere. Cruise ships are a giant Petri dish no matter how well they are cleaned. You have 3 to 5 thousand people living, eating and eliminating in a confined area. No matter how careful you are, you are going to touch something that has been contaminated. Personally, if I were to be considering a cruise right now, I would cancel out, especially if Norwegian messing with the truth in their sales department. That aside, I will say that we enjoyed the trip thru the Panama canal, but wished there had been different ports on the western side as we had just been to three of them last year. Our rooms were kept up very well and they were really encouraging people to wash their hand or use sanitizer all over the ship. One thing that we have found to be going downhill is the food service in the ship buffet. Most all foods served on this trip were barely warm, some were actually cool. This is a dangerous way to serve food in my opinion. The dining room food was excellent and hot. We ate a five of the specialty restaurants on board and found the staff and food EXCELLENT in the Ocean Blue. The food and staff was also very good in the LeBistro restaurant, but were disappointed that they had run out of escargot on the 13th day of our 16 day cruise. They also ran out of food items in the buffet,{Cafe}. When we went to Mexico last year on the Bliss, we really enjoyed the whiskey bar, but on the Joy, it seems like the bar was dark, dingy and unfriendly. I do want to compliment Norwegian on the drink package. The drinks were great and the bar staff, with the exception of the Joy's whiskey bar was great. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
Overall a wonderful trip. The ship is magnificent. Boarded in Miami and was so glad to have just moved up to platinum as my line to get on was 10 minutes long, the others were in the hundreds and took 3 hours to get on. There must be a ... Read More
Overall a wonderful trip. The ship is magnificent. Boarded in Miami and was so glad to have just moved up to platinum as my line to get on was 10 minutes long, the others were in the hundreds and took 3 hours to get on. There must be a better process not a good way to start. The ship is beautiful, the staff is excellent and the food is best I’ve had on a cruise except the buffet. It was constantly cold and all tasted the same. The room was great, spotless at all times with a very personable nice steward. Room 9878 sits on top of a bar on the waterfront and had extremely loud music until 10:30 every night but then was quiet. Just don’t plan on a quiet night in. One big issue was Re boarding the ship in Cartegena. There were 3 long lines and a short Haven line which is fine, they pay plenty for that service but then 2 buses arrived and those 100 people were allowed to create their own line and cut in causing the rest of us an additional hour in the 100 heat to snake our way up. This is the fault of ncl not organizing and moving lines. There sure were plenty of staff handing out washcloths that could hVe controlled traffic, just frustrating when hot and exhausted. The smoking situation is an issue on this ship. It’s great to have an open deck area on 17 in Spice to go but in the casino it’s a small room that is is normally ventilated very well except on sea days when crowded. Also they have 5 table games in there that in 17 days ionly saw 2 with a player. I suggested they remove 2 and add more slots as times we were standing in line to play. It would have been nice to have like on others ships an ashtray outside on deck 8 where you could duck out and smoke a quick cigarette and get back in. There are many more closet smokers than you would expect. The staff on this ship were excellent. The specialty restaurants obviously have the best servers but we found some trying very hard in main dining rooms. Ocean blue was a great surprise for us. The seafood was wonderful as well as the service. Also no I Sheehan’s, name change to local. Served a great fast breakfast and menu upgrade. Overall a great trip Oh it did take 3 hours to get off ship thanks to customs border protection wow lots missed shuttles and tours was really ugly.. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
We took a great trip on the Joy for 16 days from Miami to Los Angeles. Through the Panama Canal. We had a great time. plenty of things to do on the ship and plenty of excursions were offered as well. The embarkation in Miami was the ... Read More
We took a great trip on the Joy for 16 days from Miami to Los Angeles. Through the Panama Canal. We had a great time. plenty of things to do on the ship and plenty of excursions were offered as well. The embarkation in Miami was the worst of our 10 cruise vacations. First they sent us to the wrong area to check in ,so we went to the right section and there was a loud alarm going off for 30min before someone from maintainence came to disconnect it. over allit was 1 1/2 hours waiting in line to check in. This was with a pre arranged check in time! We chose an inside cabin as we always do, It was smallbut we didn'tcare as we spend our time on deck. We loved the choices of food and different dining areas that were included in the fare. Did not try any of the other dining options. Loved the Music, and Footloose play. The Elements production we did not like very much, more of a dancing program(think Ballet,interpretive dance).Most of the comedy shows were of the 18+ variety which we never go to. I feel that you don't need profanity to be funny. And even in the large shows that were supposed to be "clean" there were too many references to sex, and use of "potty" talk. The ports of call were interesting. Although the ports wherewe docked were schetchy. Meanining we docked in shipyards, where you weren't allowed to walk from the ship to the city. They were Cartagena, Colombia;Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica; Excurisions were good we did VIP Sailing Adventure In Puerto Vallarta great time. Beach Resort getaway in Mazatlan nice beach with lunch at the resort restaurant men aren't allowed to wear sleeveless shirts. One poor guy was given a shirt that was too to small but he put it onso he could have lunch. :) Famous Arch, Sea lionsand Whales tour in Cabo San Lucas saw lots of whales and sea lions. we also did The Sabana Adventure Safari in Puerto Caldera don't make our mistake. First it is a 2-21/2 hour bus ride to the attraction. they have 5 different animals zebra, antelope,giraffe.spent only hour doing that lunch was good, then another 2 hours back. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
Chose because we wanted to navigate the canal early in the year when the weather is perfect..Could have been any cruise line! Negative points are embarking and disembarking both very long lines and close to 2 hours. New NCL terminal ... Read More
Chose because we wanted to navigate the canal early in the year when the weather is perfect..Could have been any cruise line! Negative points are embarking and disembarking both very long lines and close to 2 hours. New NCL terminal though looks nearly ready in Miami though. Had a mini suite because not much more expensive than standard balcony. First experience when we walked into our room and bathroom was WOW . Bathroom was as good as in any decent hotel with double sinks and large double length walk in shower. Also had a coffee maker which we made use of. Decent selection of films etc on the tv. Although only 3 years old ship had just had a multi million conversion from its original Chinese/Japanese market so everything new and clean. Food excellent especially the selection in the buffet where I was spoilt for choice. Had the 5 speciality meal/drink package at £100 each an absolute bargain. Can reccomend the filet mignon steaks I had 3 of them! Big Beatles fan so I can say the resident tribute act were absolutely fantastic. Watched them twice in the on-board Cavern and twice in the theatre with everybody singing along.. Almost a hidden charge why do most cruise lines add the 15% daily service charge?? Surely it should be included the the cruise price and then I could add a more personal gratuity if applicable e.g. to the cabin steward. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
This cruise experience was truly a mix of positive and negative impressions. Our biggest frustration was that the Joy changed our itinerary without explanation less than a week before taking off. They eliminated a stop in Santa Marta, ... Read More
This cruise experience was truly a mix of positive and negative impressions. Our biggest frustration was that the Joy changed our itinerary without explanation less than a week before taking off. They eliminated a stop in Santa Marta, where we had planned to meet family members. We don't think it is fair to offer no explanation for changes of this magnitude. This is a newer ship that is spotlessly clean and beautifully decorated. There is a lovely Observation Deck and lounge on the 15th floor, with lots of nice seating and quiet space. There are a few nice places to sit outside along the 8th deck as well. Unfortunately, the ship pipes in music CONSTANTLY along the deck, as well as in the Garden Cafe (buffet). This can be very annoying, especially early in the morning when it is nice to have quiet time and also when you are seeking a quiet space to just listen to the waves, read a book, or enjoy the moonlight.Our stateroom was spacious and comfortable, with lots of storage and a large bathroom. Instead of having a private deck, we opted for a larger family room because we were originally planning to take our adult daughter who is handicapped. I'm glad we ended up not taking her . . . the elevators were very slow and extremely crowded. I would strongly recommend that the Joy consider having a handicapped only elevator and more handicapped accessibility features for the comfort of these guests. Another disappointing space is the Atrium. This area, which includes the guest services desk is being used as their main gathering space and it is SO loud and crowded! They set up folding chairs every day to accommodate the crowds. Unfortunately, there is no larger central dance hall space on the ship to handle large group events. There is also only one pool area with two fairly small saltwater pools and a kid's pool to accommodate over 4000 guests. So much space was used to provide a relatively unused race track, mini-golf course, and laser tag area. Remember, the vast majority of guests are over 60. There were other spaces for kids.Honestly, small hotels offer more pool space and bigger hot tubs than this huge cruise ship. The class system is alive and well on the Joy, giving lots of special privileges and choice spaces for those who can afford it. One of the biggest slaps to the average passenger is that all the reserved seats for the Social Club Comedy room were used up by Haven guests, so everyone else needed to wait in line for up to an hour if they wanted to see the shows. Again, the room is packed full with folding chairs to accommodate guests. In general, all the bars and clubs with live entertainment were much too small. Another solution would be to offer more entertainment with a more equitable distribution so everyone would have opportunities to to see them. The Beatles group was terrific, but again,the lines to get in the Cavern were sometimes over an hour long. Advance reservations to see Footloose and Elements in the theater are an absolute MUST because they are only shown on a couple nights. Most of the other entertainment was just okay, as was the food. We had both good and bad meals, with most being just average. The ship does not have ANY water filling stations, so in order to refill a water bottle, you need to go all the way to the cafeteria on 15th floor and fill it from water glasses. They would like you to buy bottled water, which is extremely wasteful and bad for the environment. We also had a mix of impressions of the Shore Excursions. In general, they were very expensive for what you receive in return. Norwegian Cruise lines should be ashamed for including and promoting the exploitation of human beings in Colon, Columbia. People are not to be gawked at as exhibitions, as the Embera people were on many of their sponsored Shore Excursions. Even if the Embera people volunteered to do this, it is reminiscent of the days when the US staged American Indian pageants, pretending that our native American people still lived as they did hundreds of years ago. The whole staged show is an inappropriate lie to the public in order to sell products, who seemed to eat it up as truth. it would be interesting to find out where most of the money for the products goes. If it truly goes to the tribes and if the products are truly made by the tribes that would be nice, but they could still be honest with the public about their current way of life and all it entails. The staff on this ship was EXTREMELY friendly and did an excellent job, from cleaning to waiting tables. We were very happy with that part of our trip and hope these people are paid well. Our itinerary to the Panama Canal, ABC islands, Columbia, and Costa Rica was wonderful, although we really would have liked to have had our day in Santa Marta, as well as have a morning time slot in Cartagena, instead of the hot afternoon. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
This was our 9th cruise on Norwegian and our 17th cruise overall. This was our first time on the Norwegian Joy. Due to the size of this very large ship, embarkation was a bit frustrating with very long lines, but once we were on the ship, ... Read More
This was our 9th cruise on Norwegian and our 17th cruise overall. This was our first time on the Norwegian Joy. Due to the size of this very large ship, embarkation was a bit frustrating with very long lines, but once we were on the ship, that was almost forgotten. The Norwegian is only a few years old and is beautiful and clean. The ship has a lot of activities including a race car track and laser tag, for an extra fee, of course. Both were fun to do at least once. The pool deck is very large, but it was often difficult to find an open lounge chair because people will place a towel on a chair and leave it there all day, even if they are no longer on the pool deck. That is very frustrating! In the evenings, the staff clears off the loungers and puts out chairs to watch a movie on the enormous outdoor movie screen. We enjoyed several outdoor movies during the cruise. We did notice that on the 5 sea days during the cruise, there were not touch day time activities. If you did not want to lounge by the pool (if you could find a chair), then you were left to entertain yourself. During the evenings, there were so much to do that we were not able to do everything that we wanted to do. We ate in every restaurant on the ship at least once with the exception of the American Diner. Le Bistro, Cagneys, La Cucina and Ocean Blue were excellent as usual. Tempanyaki was good but way too much salt and garlic, but it was fun talking to the other guests at our table. We did not like Food Republic. The Korean beef and the Tempanyaki chicken had the same sauce which was strange. The food never looked the same on the table as it did in the pictures. We were not impressed with this restaurant although the service was good. We definitely did not like the BBQ restaurant call The Q. The beef brisket was overcooked and everything tasted the same. The banana pudding was very gelatinous and lacked flavor. We will not return to this restaurant. We saw the play Footloose. The acting and singing were average in our opinion and it did not live up to the hype. We had already seen the other play Elements on a different ship, so we did not go to that one. One night we say the Beatles Review concert that was excellent! We went to multiple comedy shows on the 6th deck. All were extremely funny, and we would definitely recommend these if you like comedy. Make sure you sign up for the shows that you want on the first day of the cruise. Otherwise you have to wait in a standby line, but most people got in anyway. On the last day of the cruise at 12 noon we saw the play called "Wine Lovers, The Musical". I believe we paid $25 per person. The play was cute and funny. The meal was average but included 7 glasses of wine in total. There were 3 glasses of white wine and 2 glasses of red wine during the main course. Then there were 2 glasses of dessert wines. We sat with 3 other couples at a table for 8 and thoroughly enjoyed their company. I think we were the last table to leave. I would definitely recommend this event for the entertainment value. It was so much fun! The first three ports were Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba. We did not take excursions at these ports, but did our own thing. We went to the caves in Curacoa which was different and fun. We went snorkeling in Bonaire which was amazing! And we went to a private beach and swam in Aruba. All 3 days were fun and relaxing. The next port was Cartegena, Columbia. We signed up for an excursion that was only a boat ride over to and from the city. The boat ride was relaxing and avoided the road traffic. We went into the Spanish Inquisition Museum, the Gold Museum and the chocolate factory which were all interesting. We shopped in the mom and pop stores and bought some pretty paintings and other souvenirs. We stayed in the Old Town the entire time and always felt safe. The street vendors were a bit annoying but not as bad as we had read about in other reviews. The next port was Colon, Panama. We took an excursion call Two Oceans by Railroad. We road in an old but pretty train to Panama City on the Pacific Ocean. We were able to take some pictures and buy some sourvenirs, but then back on a bus to Colon. On the way back we stopped at Agua Clara which is a platform where you can watch ships go the the Panama Canal. It is a very different perspective than watching while you are on the ship. We also saw a short film about the making of the canal. The next day the Norwegian Joy went through the Panama Canal. We went through 3 locks to get to Gutan Lake. After about an hour, we turned around and went back through the same 3 locks, as our trip was round trip out of Miami. It was very cool to see the ship rise more than 80 feet from lock #1 to lock #3. This was a very enjoyable day. The last port was Puerto Limon. We went on a private tour with Relay Day Tours. The tour was excellent, and there is a lengthy review on TripAdvisor. We chose a private tour because we wanted a small group instead of a large busload. It was awesome! Overall I gave the cruise a 4 out of 5 stars. We did not give it 5 stars because of the extremely long wait at embarkation, the lack of activities during the day, the lack of pool lounge chairs, and some of the restaurants and shows did not impress. Otherwise, great cruise. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
Panama Canal on our bucket list, awarded thru Casino for interior room so good opportunity to do this with small discount. I was hesitant going with another NCL bigger ship since our Thanksgiving Cruise on the get a way wasn’t that ... Read More
Panama Canal on our bucket list, awarded thru Casino for interior room so good opportunity to do this with small discount. I was hesitant going with another NCL bigger ship since our Thanksgiving Cruise on the get a way wasn’t that good. This ship however was a pleasant experience; the staff across the entire ship were welcoming, always greeting guests. I enjoyed the layout on this ship so much more than their getaway from Casino, decor, & staff. They were taking all precautions with the Noro & recent corona virus’s constantly cleaning, & really insuring folks we’re washing hands. The food in buffet was often better than their main dining rooms where service was still sometimes an issue. They had excellent shows on this ship from the footloose musical, Russian aerialists & especially the Beatles production. The local restaurant which is included served great food 24/7. Highly recommend the chicken pot pie! The water slide was fun. I really enjoyed the laid back vibe on this trip, anytime dining with no worry of dressing up too much. I had no complaints or bad experiences on this 12 day cruise & would Cruise again on Joy. Our bartenders on the aft end H2O bar Cristian, Juancho & Mike were awesome! Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
For our 17th cruise, we wanted to experience the Panama Canal. We had taken NCL in Sept. to New England and in October around the Western Mediterranean. This 3rd Norwegian cruise was a charm. We are a couple in our 60's recently ... Read More
For our 17th cruise, we wanted to experience the Panama Canal. We had taken NCL in Sept. to New England and in October around the Western Mediterranean. This 3rd Norwegian cruise was a charm. We are a couple in our 60's recently retired and it's time to travel while we're still able to do so. While working and limited to 7 days off, we did the East, West, and South Caribbean total 10 times over 17 years. This time we went to the Panama Canal area. ABC isles, Cartagena, Colon, Panama Canal, and Limon. from Miami. 12 days on the Norwegian Joy 020220 - 021420. Our Embarkation was terrible as we had to wait outside for 2 hours in hot weather as we were in a Carnival terminal (why?) and all passports were checked slowly for recent travel to China in lieu of the new Corona virus concerns (that's good that we were checked). The ship was very nice. Clean, recently updated, and very comfortable but for a very small pool on Deck 16. Most of that area is empty for lounging. The pool takes up less than 5% of the open deck area. It made for easy seating to view the Superbowl on departure day. Even though out of Miami where the Superbowl was, we had a Latin America TV feed with commercials for soccer and Cricket. The same 3 commercials all game, at every time out. Our cabin was inside (as we like it dark) and had a large shower and bathroom comparatively but little storage space (36" closet with 4 shelves on the inside. So I put my underwear and socks above the bed and n my night table. So what? We're only in the cabin to sleep, and when we've previously had a balcony we didn't use it at all. The food offerings were very tasty buy sparse. We ate breakfasts in the buffet when we had early excursions so we'd get out quickly, but opted for the dining rooms on days at sea or late port arrivals so we could have our favorite smoked salmon not offered at the buffet. For lunch we ate at the buffet only because there was a greater variety offered that the dining rooms. For supper, we ate only 4 of 12 nights in the dining rooms because we didn't like the menu options offered. On our previous cruises in Sept. and Oct. 2019 on NCL we had shrimp cocktail offered each night as an appetizer option as well as salmon. These options were missing, but I found them on the Haven (luxury suites with their own dining room above deck 16) every night instead. That's NCL trying to get us to pay big bucks for a small food option now considered premium. Boo! But nobody was going away hungry, ever. Also, the many main dish selections in the buffet at lunch and dinner had dwindled from many to several, and we found salad selections mixed with hot foods, kinda doubling up on the facings of the same thing. Lunch meats were ham, salami or (salty) turkey. Salads were fresh and fine, fruits were apples, oranges, honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon and pineapple. only a handful of different hot offerings were given each day at lunch and dinner along with daily pizza, pasta, hot dogs, hamburgers, sausage, grilled chicken and french fries. White rice was everywhere. Onion soup was on every dinner menu buffet and dining rooms and only 1 other 'cream of'' soup: 2 soups daily. The India chef had a 'Taste Of India' section that was rarely visited by anyone and with dishes I never heard of before. I didn't go there at all. That should be fixed by rotating other country offerings nightly. But in general, all of the other food tasted excellent. Nightly entertainment was very good, with 3 shows (1 for fee - Wine Lovers) and broadway class performances of 'Footloose' and 'Elements' (same show we saw in the Western Mediterranean in October on the N. Epic (Now THAT was a ship with a lousy cabin setup). Other nightly entertainment offerings were a Beatles cover band twice in the theater and 4 times at the Cavern bar (excellent), 4 different comedians in the Social Club, and 2 singers (one was a duet 1st time including the cruise director DanDan who was a surprise tenor with a wonderful voice). Service in the buffet was excellent, and the dining room was hit or miss as we had only one bad experience. But I'd still give service 5 stars. I don't want to dwell on the ABC islands as many other folks have been there and we've been to Aruba and Curacao thrice before, but our Bonaire experience (first visit) was a bad tour vehicle with limited vision, no loudspeaker, and 2-1/2 hours until a bathroom stop and it was given by a tour operator Voyager Bonaire Tours. My mom said if you don't have something nice to say about someone, don't say anything. 'Nuf said. Shore excursions by NCL were very good but expensive. In the ABC islands, we opted for the excursion tents for tours to give the money to the locals. These tents are right outside the ship entrance. Except for Bonaire, Aruba and Curacao were very good and for $20 or $25 pp, you get an equivalent $79-$99 NCL tour. I don't want to dwell on the ABC islands here as many other folks have been there and we've been to Aruba and Curacao twice. But the Cartagena, Colon, and Limon ports had no such tents and also high crime rates in the first two. So we opted to stay safe and use NCL cruises to be safe and it was the right thing to do. We took NCL's "Exploring Magnificent Cartagena" as our tour. As soon as we got off the tour bus at every stop we were hounded by sidewalk vendors with jewelry, handbags, sunglasses, coin collection cards, you name it! Dozens, no hundreds of vendors suffocating us no matter which way we turned. It was worse than I could ever imagine. I sat down with my wife at an outdoors area for a drink and Columbian coffee (a must) and were besieged constantly by at least 20 of them in 15 minutes. We were safe but under duress. "No thank you". No thank you. No. No thank you. You run out of no thank you's all day long and at every stop. It was suffocating and left a bad taste of the city. The NCL tour there was very good, visiting the large fort "Castille San Felipe de Barajas" outside only (enough), then on to "Palacio De La Museo Historico de Cartagena" which showed the torture history of previous eras, and a cultural exposition "Exposicion Derivas" which featured a native dance troupe. Next day in Colon (as far as I'm concerned pronounce it both ways) we took the NCL tour "Former Canal Zone History and Miraflores Locks" and for $79 pp it was a bargain. We made a stop at a Latin 7-11 with 2 policemen standing guard with automatic weapons in front. Very clean but unsettling. We stopped next at the Goethals monument for a nice photo. After a total 1 hour drive, we arrived at the Pacific side of the canal.Then we went to the Miraflores canal locks. There was an IMAX theater (we didn't get tickets) and saw a 12 minute film. We then went up to a grandstand looking over the locks and watched as the locks opened and closed and a 5000 car carrying ship went through, guided by electronic 'mules'. It was a wonderful experience. When we left, we drove back to the ship, Just outside the ship is the slums, with partially demolished but standing buildings that look line WWII photos of bombed out streets. We were warned in advance not to visit as even near the ports people can be mugged in broad daylight without any repercussions. The next day was the Panama Canal transit. It started at 5 AM and we went through 3 locks, turned around and went back through the same by 2:30 PM. It was sort of Deja Vu as we witnessed it up close on the Pacific side the day before at Miraflores. It's still an engineering marvel not to be missed. The next day was our last port of call, Puerta Limon (Limon) Costa Rica. This is a nature area with rainforests. A Biologists dream come true. Again no port cruise tents here. We signed up for NCL's tour "Caribbean Train, Eco Cruise and Countryside" ($79pp). We were bused offroad first to an old rickety wooden 3 car train for a 50 minute ride through the rainforest. Take the seats on the left side as the right has the ocean most of the way. I loved it. Like traveling in the '30s. We got off and were taken by bus past a very large banana plantation for miles. We arrived at 'EcoJungle Natural Tours'a ' for a short river cruise past sloths, lizards, and birds. It was fun and enjoyable. It was also not full of bugs so I was told that the repellent I used was not needed. We went back for complimentary pineapple and tea and took the bus back to the ship. We had 2 days at sea to return to Miami. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
We selected a 12 night cruise to see the Panama Canal. We got to visit some cool places in addition, and have lunches in local bistros. We're not into sailing or snorkeling, but would rather walk/tour around to get the individual ... Read More
We selected a 12 night cruise to see the Panama Canal. We got to visit some cool places in addition, and have lunches in local bistros. We're not into sailing or snorkeling, but would rather walk/tour around to get the individual flavor of each place. We kind of enjoyed the relaxation of two sea days both starting and ending the cruise. There were the ABC's-Aruba, Bonair & Curacao. We chose the basic 'see the island' excursions to experience the particular flavor of each- aloe vera factory, salt harvesting, flora/fauna, climbing outcrops, caves, and ... seeing deserts for a large part of them! Because of scheduling changes, we only had time for a great lunch in only one, Curacao- an outdoor table in a charming bistro sheltered by trees. ..and riding the wild pontoon bridge as it opened! We ventured into the 'Old City' of Cartagena, Columbia, a large cluster of shops, restaurants and chapels surrounded by a centuries-old stone wall. Great for shopping and photos, but lousy with street vendors who continually swarmed you like mosquitoes. One even sat down at our bistro table and tried to sell us dominos! There was a nature garden/zoo a short walk from our dock, to provide further photo ops. The Panama two day stop provided various excursions to experience the country- we chose the bus/walking tour of New/Old Panama City, experiencing the third world flavor (like a torn-down 12 foot high wall separating the rich section from the poor) and actually seeing the Pacific. The port city itself, Colon, was NOT recommended as a tourist exploration site. The canal itself was kind of overwhelming- waking before dawn to a full moon on the water, seeing the array of waiting ships, riding our 1100' cruise ship through three locks, rising up 85', turning around in Lake Gatin, then back out to the Caribbean sea. 7 hours experience in all. Final stop was Puerta Limon, Costa Rica- taking a canal/jungle cruise with animal spotting, then a train ride through banana plantations. They had a huge cluster of shops for last minute shopping next to the docking area. AS TO THE CRUISE, my wife and I differ. I am of the opinion that 3800 passengers is JUST TOO DAMN MANY. The ship was beautiful, with room for ALL kind of diversions- almost a dozen restaurants, huge theater, 60 foot water slides, and two story race car track. The normal pool area was replaced by a floor, to accommodate billions of beach chairs, and two smallish pools, the size of a large room. There was an activity going every minute of the day, and choice of 8 music acts (besides the theater 'Footloose' musical, Circe du Soleil clone, and other performers). It was refreshing to be surrounded by 95% shipmates as old as us; definitely friendly and courteous interactions through out. BUT EVERYTHING WAS A WAIT- elevators, bars, restaurant food service, concierge service, etc. Wifi wasn't bad, depending on time of day. It JUST BUGS me. Even walking to our room I felt like we were walking the gauntlet. I felt bad for the EXTREMELY HARDWORKING staff to be the target of occasional impatient outcries. Also annoying was the fact that we had to correct 4 misbilled items on our room check over the 12 days, each entailing another wait in lines.. A MAJOR PROBLEM WAS a change in scheduling when the JOY arrived to pick us up- it was late, a terminal had to be reassigned, luggage moved for some, and they were playing catch up to process. The actual boarding was 2-3 hours late and all 3800 folk were packed into the boarding area trying to hear the PA system announcements. Again, the staff did do a great job trying to get us registered. A final strangeness was new procedures put in place to combat spread of virus's (The Joy apparently had two norovirus outbreaks in December). For the first 3 days, all access to buffet food was made by staff, and menus were paper, not books. I guess there was a 'quarantine' period delay in place. Don't let my annoyances cloud the fact that we had a SPLENDID time, both onship and off. The food in the specialty restaurants seemed a step above normally good, and even the middle tier sitdowns were 4/5 stars. Entertainment was great, and where else can you walk from a brew pub to a whiskey bar to a mojito bar while traversing the sea? And once again, thanks to the hardworking staff, who made this excursion great. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
Overall the Gem is a nice ship but the poor quality of food and lack of interesting activities made for a rather ho hum three week cruise. My wife and I chose this cruise because the itinerary because the ship was scheduled to stop at ... Read More
Overall the Gem is a nice ship but the poor quality of food and lack of interesting activities made for a rather ho hum three week cruise. My wife and I chose this cruise because the itinerary because the ship was scheduled to stop at many ports, most of which we had not yet visited. After boarding in L.A. and a quiet day at sea, our first stop was in Cabo and that was an exciting port - beautiful scenery and plenty of excursions from which to choose. We selected the Electric Bike tour and had a wonderful time. The power assisted bikes made the ride along a breathtaking stretch of beach very easy. The next port we visited was Puerto Vallarta - again, this port did not disappoint. Lots to see and do. We took a city bus to the Malecon - a beach side shopping district about 25 minutes via the city bus from the port. It was quite nice, filled with many souvenier shops and lots of tourists so safety was never a concern. We unfortunately took the wrong bus back to the port and got a scenic ride through the town - a concern since it took twice as long and concerned us that we would miss the embarkation time. Our next stop was Zihuatanejo, very scenic port but not much to do unless you've made excursion arrangements. Walking around the town was a bit depressing - very impoverished and the beaches though beautiful did not seem too inviting. Most were at least a 20-30 minute walk from the pier. The armed military around the tourist areas made you stop and wonder if the area was safe but nothing too much to worry about. why. Well, I guess if I write detailed accounts of every port you'll lose interest so let's just say the next few, Puerto Quetzal, Corinto, and Puntarenas offer very little to do unless you schedule an excursion - which we did not. The areas immediately surrounding the port offered simple diversions but nothing we found interesting. Guess that could be just our taste and limited budget. As others we talked with shared stories of fun excursions. After another day at sea we made it to the Panama Canal. This was our first time through the locks and the experience was quite exciting. We had to get up rather early to secure a good spot up at the bow but it made for a terrific view. The transit through the various locks was indeed one of the highlights of our trip. The next two stops were in Colombia, Cartegena - a bustling metropolis with lots of beautiful modern and ancient architecture to enjoy. The other stop was in Santa Marta - not quite as nice as Cartegena but still plenty to do if just walking off the ship to take in the town. The next three port were referred to as the A,B.C's. We visited Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire - one day after the other. These are each beautiful ports with lots of water activities. We did snorkel tours in Aruba and Bonaire - we had a blast on each. On Curacao we simply walked through the many shops and strolled through the town - it is very picturesque and offers a smorgasbord of color. The next three days were spent at sea. Norwegian Gem is a smaller ship and just did not offer enough activities to keep us busy or entertained throughout the day. The food was not that great - especially the buffet service. Most personnel didn't seem too friendly or willing to be of much assistance in answering questions. The ship lacked informative lectures as we have experienced on other cruises and the entertainment was a rather crab shoot of hit or miss. One standout though was our cabin steward. He did a terrific job of keeping our room tidy and always offered a smile and friendly greeting. Speaking of our cabin - it was an inside cabin that could accommodate up to four. It was an okay size for two - perhaps even three but four would be rather cramped. Our final port was New York. Never before have we arrived by ship; what a thrilling experience even though the wind and cold made it tough. The view was quite spectacular. All in all it was an okay voyage. We landed a great price so it helped to negate some of the negative factors, things like the constant sales for pitch for CruiseNext and the added expense for basic on-board activities. It could have been much more enjoyable had there been more on-board activities, better entertainment, and appealing food choices. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
This was our 3rd cruise with NCL, 15th in total. We choose this cruise for the itinerary. I must say, being European and living in a mediëval city our expectations are high. You can not surprise us with a 19th century church. So ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise with NCL, 15th in total. We choose this cruise for the itinerary. I must say, being European and living in a mediëval city our expectations are high. You can not surprise us with a 19th century church. So history/culture and nature are the things we want to see. (CC why no history/culture in "Which of the following apply to your review?") We booked a balcony on deck 10 fwd., inclusive ultimate beverage package and 50 $ shore excursion credit. Boarding was ok and fast. But... no welcome drink. We immediately thought "economizing"...... Ship. The ship was very nice, even for its age! We prefer the smaller ships with no hi tech or roller coasters.... The "art collection" on board: no comments…. Cabin. The cabin was ok, right seize, clean and in a very good condition. Large safe for pc and cameras, even a coffee machine!. Small tv though. The bathroom has a door that closes off the toilet. Waste of space! I am 1,90m (6ft3) and needed that door open for "n°2". Dining. The MDR looked great: art deco style, must say the best of all the cruises we did before. Service was always excellent. (sometimes a bit to fast for us, but that's personal) The MDR menu was between mediocre and good. No more escargots, prime rib or lobster for the farewell. ("economizing"). Compared to other cruise lines we did, choice for breakfast was not as good. No mushrooms. But the icing on the cake we found out the 2nd week: there was smoked salmon for breakfast, but....it is hidden away. You had to ask for it were the bread stand was. Pleas NCL, better give nothing than hiding it away. You are not dealing with children but with passengers! We had an issue that there was only regular butter, no diet butter (a first in 15 cruises too). This was communicated to the F&B manager. What he (and the maitre D at the MDR) did for us was unbelievable. They know what customer service is. People at the office in Miami have to thank and learn a lesson from people like them. The last night my steak (ordered medium rare) was well done. For the first time on all the cruises we did I send it back. It came back.....well done. "Nobody does dining like Norwegian": luckily not..others are better. "Freestyle cruising": sometimes it was "no style cruising". We like it that there are no formal nights...but please in the main restaurant for dinner don't go in shorts.... Service. Was excellent. Everybody did their utter best. Just the "cruise director"....was a joke. Never saw her around. A cruise director should walk around the ship and be seen!!!! Entertainment and activities. We did not attend a show, nor activities. We just went to the presentation of het Panama Canal. Theatre was full, people sitting on the stairs. Normal: this is THE highlight and for many people the reason for the cruise. The explanation was given by "Darlene"....I should rather say the reading of the slides that were presented was done by Darlene. But the best was yet to come: at the end of the presentation she asked…..if there was a nautical lawyer or engineer in the audience to answer questions……????!!!!!???? This presentation had to be given by the captain or at least the staff captain since this is a nautical matter. Speaking of the captain....On this 3 week cruise, we saw him (passing by the martini bar) the one but last day of the cruise. Staff captain, 1st and other officers???Never seen! This was also a first in 15 cruises. Better work on a cargo ship! The only exception was the F&B Manager who was every night in the restaurants! Ports and shore excursions. Santa Barbara was a beautiful stop. Tendering went smooth. Rodeo Drive & Los Angeles tour was a disappointment. Not much to see there. Our guide did not even show us the "foot prints of famous movie stars" as mentioned in the tour description! (we found out they are in front of the Chinese Theatre, but to late...) Puerto Vallarta City sights: Nothing to see but a nice church. The description of the excursions is always so exaggerated. I'd wish they write a more honest description. Than you know what to expect. We always try to do an excursion without shopping. We can do that at home...Here we had a 40 minute stop in a silvershop. This was NOT mentioned in the tour description. Puerto Quetzal:Easy Antiqua: ok, but...40 minute Jade shop and 15 min photostop….. Corinto: Colonial City of Leon was ok Puntaresas: Pacific Train, Boat & Costa Rica traditions: started with the obvious shop (Costa Rica traditions were the guys playing music….) The "delicious buffet of seasonal fruits": a plate with a piece of banana, mango & pineapple. The "ride in a historical train through rural countryside and tropical fields"....what a joke! A ride in the slums would be a much better description. Luckily the boat trip was very good. Bonaire: Best of Bonaire: why did the ship stopped there anyway? Nothing to see. There were more flamingos printed on my polo....Tour was waste of money, and ship departed at midday, so no more time to walk around... Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We chose this cruise for the itinerary and the time of year. This was our first cruise in many years and our first on the NCL line. We originally booked a mini suite and put a bid on an upgrade about 30 days before the cruise. We won ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary and the time of year. This was our first cruise in many years and our first on the NCL line. We originally booked a mini suite and put a bid on an upgrade about 30 days before the cruise. We won the bid and were excited to have been placed in the Deluxe Owner's Suite #15500. The service there was wonderful and we had a delightful time. The Butler, Concierge, Room Steward and the Deck Steward were exceptionally friendly and helpful. More information about the room is the cabin section. Here are a few other observations: The Haven menus for breakfast and lunch do not change so toward the end of the cruise we tended to float around the ship to pick up food at the buffet or the grill on the pool deck area. But the service was so attentive that you could order anything at all and it would be there in a flash. The food was just okay in the complementary dining areas. It was plentiful but sometimes the descriptions didn't match what was prepared. I love hearty soups but most were a thin blended cream type soup. For example what was described as corned beef and cabbage as an entre was really a bland broth with some tiny diced potatoes, carrots and a bit of corned beef. I left a lot on my plate after getting samples of various items. They just didn't taste that good. For us the best specialty restaurants were Teppanyaki and Moderno. The others were fine but we especially liked the freshness of the food in these two restaurants. The $19 lobster in Cagneys is not worth the extra money. Tiny and only a couple of bites. The unlimited internet was worth it after we saw so many people on their phones and laptops off the ship in the port wifi areas. What a waste of port time to be trying to catch up on emails there. I don't think that the free 250 minutes would have lasted very long. The free beverage package worked for us. There were enough choices under $15 and if they ran out of a certain type of wine then they gave you the more expensive one without charge. The daily cocktail was usually $9. Unless you are really hankering for very expensive alcohol then this basic plan is fine. We also brought on board 15 bottles of our favorite wine. They didn't charge us the corkage fee. When we embarked in LA there was no one there to show the wine to. We looked. We mentioned at the time we got our cards but she just waved us through. And it was clear that we had it because it was in a cooler and was heavy. Went through security twice with no one asking about it. Maybe because we were in a suite? Don't know if that made a difference. The entertainment was very good but on this long of a cruise there were some repeats. Understandable. The musicians in the bars and on the pool deck were excellent. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
I wanted to travel through the Panama Canal on my birthday as I had done the Suez Canal with Celebrity Cruises the year before. I now call Norwegian Cruises - NO Norwegian cruises because anything you ask the staff except for our cabin ... Read More
I wanted to travel through the Panama Canal on my birthday as I had done the Suez Canal with Celebrity Cruises the year before. I now call Norwegian Cruises - NO Norwegian cruises because anything you ask the staff except for our cabin guy is a NO. Or they say yes and then you find out later its a NO. I asked if I could save a space for viewing the Panama and was told Yes, the 13th floor is open 24 hours. 2.45am I set the alarm and went to the 13th floor where I was confronted by the cleaner who told me, NO you can not be here. If you save a place the guy who does the floors will just move all your gear. My cabin mate booked 15 tours with the ship. I booked NONE because of how expensive they were. She paid over $1500US for her tours. I ended up doing a lot of tours she did however found a local at the end of the pier. The most I paid for any tour was $40US, plus I got fed. The ship tour didn't feed them once and gave free time at lunch. My cabin mate sat in crowed buses, was pushed and lost by the tour company twice. The food on board was so inconsistent. The main dining staff slow and untrained. It's like No Norwegian went to the jungle, pulled out a bunch of people, chucked them on the boat and said... you are a waiter, be free. 21 days with little to do, thank heavens we had 15 ports. Mostly it was a money grab. I have never had to pay to play deal or no deal. $29US, not enough players so we were sent away. Talks on herbal medicine turned into buy my acupuncture. They played the same movies on the in room tv over and over and over again. $9.95us to watch a movie on a tiny screen. Want to watch a rare movie with the crowd? You are sitting in the middle of a room next to a bar and coffee maker with people talking, coffee being ground and subtitles because you can't hear what is being said. Unfortunately if you are not in the front seat you can't see these subtitles and only the back of the persons head in front. Then there is the app that you can download. I couldn't believe there wasn't even shuffle board to entertain me, my cabin mate said yes there was, it's on the paper daily hand out. She used this and I used the app with the days agenda. This was the 2nd time I had been to reception saying that the app wasn't up to date. I was told that had I paid the $9.95 fee I would have been given up to date info. This fee allowed me to contact other passengers too. I didn't have anyone to contact as my cabin buddy doesn't like IT. I then asked for a complaint form, NO NORWEGIAN doesn't have these, go online and find one yourself. My eyes were damaged by the pool water. I couldn't see for 30 mins and have been seeing spots ever since. I was shuffled to 3 staff, the 3rd suggesting I pay for the doctor on board at my cost. We will see where that takes me. Another passenger in a motorized wheel chair was being lifted onto the bus when his chair slipped backwards and he hurt his back. The tour operator said it was NO NORWEGIAN responsibility as that's who he booked the tour with. NO NORWEGIAN said it was the tour operator. He is now seeking legal advice. A MONEY GRAB across the board. When attempting to get to the bottom of what % by law they had to pay out on the pokies and speaking to 3 staff I was told that if I put $100 in I would get to keep what ever it paid out. Don't get me wrong, I had a blast because I found fun people and created my own fun things to do. I would not recommend NO NORWEGIAN to anyone, this was my 2nd cruise with them and certainly my last. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Luz and Joey, both from Philippines, were a joke. The morning tv show was them acting like small children. Couldn’t understand them. Since Luz was on the mic so often and then every night after the shows, most Americans complained to ... Read More
Luz and Joey, both from Philippines, were a joke. The morning tv show was them acting like small children. Couldn’t understand them. Since Luz was on the mic so often and then every night after the shows, most Americans complained to each other about her horrible accent. More than 1/2 passengers were European and Asian. Don’t know how they could understand. Did not enjoy the bands who were very loud (also mostly from Philippines). Sitting in the Orchid restaurant, could barely carry on a dinner conversation. The guest entertainers disappointed us. The Gem singers and dancers were very entertaining, but since this was 21 night cruise, they only performed once a week. The acrobatic Husband and Wife duo’s performance was very good. Did not enjoy the hypnosis guy Dale K. The Irish performer Harry O was mediocre. The male singers “These Guys” first show was great. The second A Capella show by them was less than stellar. The juggler tried to be a comedian but failed. Every sea day, there was a barbecue by the pool. Usually the Garden Cafe Buffet had a theme. Found the service in Grand Pacific DR to be extremely slow. We tended to eat in the Magenta DR. Because we chose to participate in Progressive Trivia on Sea days, we could not eat lunch in dining room as the events overlapped. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
PART I : PORTS OF CALL We wanted to leave the cold northeast for the month. This itinerary seemed to fit the bill. We’re Platinum level members. This was our eighth cruise with NCL. We chose to fly from NYC where we live to SF in ... Read More
PART I : PORTS OF CALL We wanted to leave the cold northeast for the month. This itinerary seemed to fit the bill. We’re Platinum level members. This was our eighth cruise with NCL. We chose to fly from NYC where we live to SF in order to get the air travel over at the beginning. The air was included in the cost of the cruise, so I guess you can’t complain too much about “free”. However the flight arrangements required us to get up at 2am. We had to change flights at O’hare in Chicago. After boarding there the plane sat on the runway for and hour and a half because of delays in SF. Once we arrived in SF we waited another hour and a half for the courtesy buses to the ship to show up. By the time we got to the ship it was now 4:30 pm. We managed to keep our eyes open for the muster drill, grabbed a burger and fell asleep exhausted by 5:30 ( 8:30 pm NY Time). The second day, the port of call is Santa Barbara which is a lovely small town. Tendering to the dock is required here. There are a number of decent restaurants in the area. I highly recommend the Clearwater Grill which is on the main road through town. There are street vendors and local artists in kiosks along the waterfront park. One highlight is the rollerblade/skateboarding playground where humans 50 years younger than the ship passengers practice their moves and skills. I loved watching these kids - so very Californian. It was raining in LA almost all day on the third day. The ship docks in the commercial pier in Long Beach. Since we’ve been here numerous times we simply stayed on board. The fourth day was at sea. Day five was Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The yachts in the marina indicate that it’s a rich person’s playground. The views are stunning. We went on the one hour “Land’s End Boat Tour” which goes around the world famous rock formations; then did a little tourist shopping before tendering back to the ship. There’s a Senor Frog’s here for those who like that particular ambience. We had our first bad experience on day six in Puerto Vallarta, Mx. The good news is there is a cruise ship dock here so no need to tender ashore. There were two other huge ships there that day. The other nice thing is that there is a Walmart superstore walking distance from the ship ( approx. 1/2 mile) so you can get things you forgot to pack at a reasonable price. However don’t get six packs of soda, beer or water. You will not be allowed to bring these or other food items back on board. The tour we chose was atrocious - “Discover Puerto Vallarta” should have been titled, Discover Stores who have paid Us to Take you to them”. The guide was indifferent at best, a little hostile at worst, was a little annoyed when I asked where the nearest bathroom was (another twenty minutes). We had a perfunctory look at this popular church. The bathroom ( for which you needed 50 pesos coins to operate) was adjacent and there was no toilet paper and the sink was broken. The guide grudgingly managed to come up with the pesos for me. ( I was threatening to just go pee in the street). The group spent SEVEN minutes at the church, because the next stop was a street filled with merchants selling the usual crapola, and a tequila tasting shop. We spent 40 minutes there. Then onto a jewelry store where the bus dropped us for 35 minutes while disappearing somewhere. The choice was to be constantly hustled by the salespeople in the store (where it was air conditioned) or stand in the street where it was humid and in the mid eighties. At this point many of us were ready to simply go back to the ship. But there was the “old town” to see. The old town didn’t look much different than the rest of the town. Here the “guide” dropped us off and said “you can look around and there are some restaurants, we’ll meet back here in an hour and a half”. My wife and I took a cab back to the ship, went straight to the excursion desk and complained about this farce of a tour. We were reimbursed for the full price as well as the cab fare. Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo on day 7 is a beautiful looking harbor surrounded by mountains, This is another tendering port. We chose to just enjoy the lido deck, poolside. Day 9 was Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. We took the “Antigua on Your Own” tour. This is a mountain town which requires a bus ride of about an hour or so depending on the traffic. Along the way you pass several volcanos, one of which was actively smoking. That one sight alone was worth the entire day. Antigua’s streets (not to be confused with the Caribbean island of the same name) are all cobblestone; the sidewalks are broken up, so wear sturdy shoes and look down while walking. We saw a few people trip and fall. A walking (hiking) stick also comes in handy. Prepare to be assaulted (in a nice way) by four feet tall Mayan women selling all sorts of things you have no earthly use for. They will take no for an answer after about the fifth or sixth no. Sometimes. A nice highlight here is the Jade Museum. There are also a couple of Spanish colonial style churches to see if you enjoy doing the church tours. The tenth day was Corinto, Nicaragua. A bunch of local people rushed to the dock to see our ship arrive. There were three bands playing and young women and little girls dressed in native costumes dancing to the music. They were all very sweet. It’s anybody’s guess why the ship even bothers to stop here. This was Super Bowl Sunday. The Europeans on board were totally befuddled as to why we Americans were making such a big deal over it. A lot of San Franciscans brought along team jerseys, hats and even war paint. Oh well, you lost guys. Good game though. I was rooting for JayLo or Shakira to have one of those wardrobe malfunctions. Go Blue! The Aerial Tram and Rainforest Adventure in Costa Rica was excellent. The bus guide was excellent, the naturalists at the preserve were highly knowledgeable and friendly, the included lunch was delicious, and the aerial tram was a fascinating ride through the canopy. Those on the zip line appeared to be having a huge thrill as well. Day 13 for us and many others was the highlight of the cruise: traversing the Panama Canal. It takes around 13 hours to go about 40 miles through three sets of locks and the Gatun lake from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic side. People lined up on the bow before dawn broke. Day 14 was Cartagena, Columbia. We’d been there two years ago. Cartagena is worth seeing once. We stayed on the ship. Next day was Santa Marta Columbia where you get to see the deplorable slums that 70% of the population must live in. This is what happens when a countries wealth is drained by drug cartels and totally corrupt politicians. The white skyline of Cartagena and its similar but lesser one at this stop are empty facades for the very few well connected. These are not my words they were those of our tour guide. Here we did the Ecological Expedition, which was basically traipsing through a park along a dirt path and then a rocky stream bed to a pond at the bottom of a waterfall ( and do not think Ocho Rios which many expected). We did spend 45 minutes in the water which was very refreshing; while being entertained by a local little 10 year old girl who wanted everyone to watch her jump off the nine foot cliff into the pool. Our guide kept calling this place “paradise”, and after seeing the slums of Santa Marta, we could understand why. Last three stops were the Dutch ABC’s. Aruba: Shopping and hooking up with the free WiFi at the Starbucks inside the big hotel off the pier. Bonaire: less shopping and using the free WiFi at the illy coffee shop off the pier. Curaçao - The Ostrich Farm - totally fun experience. Totally dumb birds. Favorite souvenir: genuine ostrich egg. $15 unpainted. Also free WiFi at the Starbucks off the pier. The ship leaves Bonaire at 1pm on a Monday. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are at sea and you get to port on Manahattan’s west side piers at 10 am. If you like spending a lot of consecutive days at sea this is for you. In retrospect I would have gotten off at Curaçao and taken a plane back to Kennedy airport (you can opt to do that.) PART II: THE SHIP The Gem is a nice ship. It’s not the nicest we’ve ever been on but it’s perfectly ok. Our balcony had some noticeable rust and peeling paint, but that happens rapidly in the salt air and water. Crew is constantly working to minimize these things and prevent deterioration, The Men in White are a constant if unobtrusive presence keeping up with maintenance. The Stardust lounge where the main shows take place is huge. Bigger than on NCLs larger ships, holding around 1,200 people. As Platinum members we were able to take the backstage tour which was fascinating. It is amazing how the dance troupe is able to do such fast costume changes in such confined spaces on a moving vessel. The beds in the cabin were extremely comfortable. The TV is on the small side and half the channels are devoted to ship info or advertising. News choices are BBC, Fox, MSNBC and CNBC. One channel has some strange TV show choices, another has interesting and offbeat documentaries. One channel has feature films. There are two sports channels. I personally would have liked one channel which played nothing but Law and Order and SVU - but then no one would go to see the juggler, the hypnotist or the magician in the Stardust on the off evenings when the dance troupe or the guest singers were not appearing. PART III: DINING The main dining room is huge and the wood tones are warm and welcoming, and not garish as you find on a different unnamed competitor line. If you prefer a smaller general dining venue there is the Magenta. We personally liked the larger venue. If you don’t mind not being served, and simply want to fuel up in the least time possible there is always the cafeteria on deck 12. Service in the dining rooms takes about an hour. We spent twelve nights in one of the several specialty restaurants. Our favorite is La Bistrô (French), followed by Cagney’s (Steaks), LaCucina (Italian), and lastly Moderno (Brazilian meats on skewers). We personally don’t care for the Brazilian concept, but lots of people do like that, and their salad bar is exceptional. O’Sheehan’s is great for a quick hot snack. The chicken wings are excellent, the hotdogs and burgers are better than what’s upstairs on deck 12, and the spinach-artichoke dip comes out warm and savory with taco chips. The food is free here. We did not do the Benihana style Japanese restaurant (C’mon NCL, that’s sooo yesterday - replace Teppanyaki with a Spanish Tapas bar or a Vietnamese dumpling house), or the sushi bar. On the Breakaway the sushi bar had afternoon hours. On the gem it’s only open at dinner hours. PART IV: ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES NCL is justifiably proud of its entertainment. We have found the dance and singing troupes (10 dancers, 4 singers) to always be broadway level ability. These 20 and 30 somethings work REALLY hard. The three shows they put on on this cruise were all outstanding. Each show is 45 minutes of nonstop singing and dancing with multiple costume changes. The guest singer on this cruise (Nicola Ward) has tremendous range, connects with the audience and does several styles ranging from pop to jazz to classical. The band are consummate pros, and often perform at the deck 6 bar venues when not in the Stardust. Keyboard, drums, base guitar, and sax are the quartet. A trombone is sometimes added for the quintet. There is a solo pianist performing almost nightly as well as a solo guitarist. The cruise director and her assistants lead those who are interested in the usual old time ship style passenger summer camp activities. Hey, if that’s your thing go for it. There is also daily trivia contests which a few passengers take very seriously. They form teams, and gawd help you if you sit in one of “their” chairs in the Atrium or the Spinaker. PART V: SERVICE The cabin stewards were fast efficient and after two days knew your bio rhythms. The restaurant staff are courteous to a fault. “Do you have any food allergies, or dietary restrictions?” - No Mommy. I have only one nit pick which I will address at length in a separate post. It is the use of the phrase “ Washee, washee !!” I find this use of the long discredited Pidgin English insulting. At best it is infantile, at worst it is RACIST. (“ No tickie, no washee !!”). Of all the lines we’ve been on, ONLY NCL trains its employees to use this phrase. The mostly Philipino young women who are told to say this don’t even realize in the 20s and 30s of the last century it was done in cinema to caricature and insult Chinese immigrants who had trouble with their English pronunciation. Naturally these folks spoke English better than the condescending White folks spoke Mandarin or Cantonese. So NCL, it would be much better to have your employees say perhaps, “kindly use the disinfectant before entering the restaurant. Thank you.” Thank you for reading my review if you’ve gotten this far. Dr.Bill Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
My husband and I chose this cruise because of the itinerary. Although we have cruised about 20 times (about 6 with NCL - we are latitudes silver because two of our cruises were from the 80's before they had a loyalty program), there ... Read More
My husband and I chose this cruise because of the itinerary. Although we have cruised about 20 times (about 6 with NCL - we are latitudes silver because two of our cruises were from the 80's before they had a loyalty program), there were numerous ports on this cruise we had not seen before. And it's a great time of year to get out of the winter for three weeks. We got a good deal on the original fare. It included 5 nights in specialty restaurants, the premium beverage package, $50.00 per port shore excursion credit, airfare and 250 minutes of internet. We up graded to premium economy air - the next category balcony stateroom and unlimited internet. We also added a thermal spa package which we found saves money by eliminating the need for a massage (you can work out all the kinks in the spa). I learned a silver latitudes rating gets you a free bottle of water and a discount on photos and some gift shop items. (But not the video of the Panama Canal) We did not spend any extra time in San Francisco, transferring directly to the ship from baggage claim at the airport. As recommended, we didn't fasten our ship luggage tags onto our luggage because we didn't want them torn off during air travel. But none of the people in the transfer process had a stapler to attach them later. Eventually we got one from another passenger. The bus driver was telling us we would have to transport our own bags because we didn't have the tags on them (a little stressful but oh well - we got it fixed and they took our bags). We arrived early and were on the ship before the huge crowds arrived. Our cabin seemed really tight/small. I don't think it was so much the square footage, as the way it was arranged. It really was as though one of us could be up in the cabin at a time. There was an ottoman type puff to sit at and a very uncomfortable loveseat sized sofa. No good place to sit at all. The TV had the typical BBC, FOX, MSNBC news networks. To stream a movie was a charge (this was free on other cruises we have been on). There was a TV series channel (with some old sit-coms) and a movie channel with commercials and no control over when the movie or show started. There was ample storage for our clothes. We are not big on attending a lot of ship entertainment. What we did go to was fine. Some of the musicians who played the lounges were good and some were not. We though Harry O was funny and the other comedian was ok. There was a magician who we enjoyed and that was about all we went to. We were very disappointed with the dining. We tend to use the main dining room and found the food there very disappointing - most meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) were mediocre at best. There were just a few nights in the main dining room where we found our meal really good. (We don't enjoy buffet style and scrounging for tables with your hands full of food. We would rather take our time and have our dinner served.) We also had trouble getting wine on our beverage package. I would order a Pino Noir and one night I would get it and then next night they would be out of it - and offer me a Chianti. It happened with Pino Grigio as well - there one night and the next they want to bring me a Chardonnay instead because they were out of Pino Grigio. Or they would offer to up sell me a wine that cost a few dollars more than my drink package would pay. I found that whole issue very maddening, We opted most night to share a table with others. It's a nice way to get to know others and we did meet some great people. The specialty restaurants were very good. We ate at Cagney's steakhouse twice, the Italian place once, the Brazilian Steak House once and the Hibachi Grill another time. In each of these places we had good food and service. It's the way I remembered the food being done in the main dining room in other cruises we have taken. We also ate at O"Sheehans a couple times and the Orchid Garden Chinese restaurant a couple of times. They both had limited menus but pretty good food. And we did eat at the buffet a few times too. Most of the food there was fine, it's always just so crazy to try and find a seat. The ship itself was a little worn. The chairs in the theatre were not good - they slanted forward and were very uncomfortable. The booths in the buffet and the lounges also had very broken down cushions and you felt like you needed a booster seat. I loved the mojitos at the Sugar Cane We really enjoyed our stop in Santa Barbara. We did zip lining in Costa Rica and that was an excellent time. Our tour in Cartagena, Columbia was fantastic as was the our tour through Antigua and the Santa Domingo Museum in Guatemala . The day through the Panama Canal was so interesting and fantastic. We enjoyed some of that day from the balcony in our stateroom, some from the Spinnaker Lounge and some from the Thermal Spa. We also enjoyed the ABC islands but didn't take any of the ships tours there - we booked our own tours and taxis and it was fine. In Santa Marta, Columbia, we booked an expensive beach tour through the shore excursions which was a big disappointment. When we returned, we complained at the shore excursion desk and they refunded 20% which helped quite a lot. (The tour wasn't worthless, it just wasn't worth what was charged). We were glad they took care of that for us. The thermal spa was nice - loved the way the lockers worked and I loved the view from the sauna - the tile lounger beds were nice as was the hot tub spa itself. The only thing I wanted was some lotion (they didn't provide any lotion anywhere in the ship). With few exceptions, the service on this ship was very good. Some times the service in the dining room was quite slow. I don't know why - was the food slow from the kitchen or the wait staff assigned too many tables. Other times it was excellent. Our cabin steward was really good. We used the gym a couple of times and the facilities there were nice too. I had trouble uploading photos to Facebook, which I really wanted to do on the internet package and rarely were we able to stream anything. BUT I was able to make internet phone calls with my cell phone connected to the internet in airplane mode. So I was able to stay in close contact with my family which was really important to me. Disembarking was TERRIBLE. We were given purple luggage tags and told we would disembark at 0930 even though the ship wasn't to get in until 10 am (how does that work??others had assignment times even earlier). We waited for hours in the public area of the ship for our color to be called - customs lines were very long...then it was a mad dash to the buses that were to transfer us to the airport. The first bus was full so we were directed to a second one, which filled up quickly leaving a lot of people standing there being told they weren't sure when the next bus would arrive. The whole thing was chaos and very stressful. This is on NCL's transfers purchased upfront. Much of this could have been prevented with better organization and communication with the passengers. We had a good time and I'm glad we went. We saw amazing sights, did some great tours and met some fun people, but in the future, I will be looking at another cruise line (most recently we have cruised Holland American, Viking and Carnival and they all had more luxury than this NCL cruise). It was kind of the Spirit Airlines of the cruising world. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We had done the Panama Canal cruise a couple of years ago from New Orleans to Seattle, this time we opted for San Francisco to New York. The canal itself is still fascinating, but most of the other ports leave much to be desired. We had ... Read More
We had done the Panama Canal cruise a couple of years ago from New Orleans to Seattle, this time we opted for San Francisco to New York. The canal itself is still fascinating, but most of the other ports leave much to be desired. We had done several of the excursions before and the don't seem to ever change. We were actually more interested in three seeks of warmth and that was the best part. We had been on the Norwegian Pearl the last time so the ship was no surprise. What id surprise us was the deterioration of the service level on the ship. We're beginning to think that Norwegian has become the Motel Six of the cruise lines. The CONSTANT nickel and diming of the passengers is horrendous. Buy bottled water for $5 a liter, that works out to $40 a gallon for water bottled about half an hour from our house. Drinks have become outrageously overpriced. The "specialty" restaurants are really more like an Applebee's or Olive Garden, except not as good. We ate twice at La Cuchina , the first time was ok, even thought the service was casual at best. The second time I had the special "veal parmesan' which was a frozen sort of veal patty with some sort of cheese over it, a huge serving of tasteless ground meat, overcooked and dry. Service was better the second time. Our experience at Cagney's was horrible. We both have mobility issues and were walked, in the nearly empty restaurant to the absolute farthest table from the door behind the kitchen/serving area. Our order was wrong TWICE, my wife's filet was tiny and overdone. My prime rib was also overcooked and COLD. The baked potato was also cold and the sides were not what we ordered and had to be sent back. The service was surly an sarcastic. We did enjoy Le Bistro, if there were to be a next time, which is extremely unlikely, that would be the only place we would frequent. Moderno was fine, good service and we liked the salad bar, but herself did not enjoy the meat offerings. I did. The Garden Café is now officially a Jr. HIgh cafeteria, overcooked food of dubious quality. The best thing there is the bread. I did enjoy breakfast on the Great Outdoors, nowhere else. The cabin was standard balcony fare, nothing special. Where do they get those sofas that are impossibly uncomfortable. The only comfortable place to sit was on the balcony. Our steward was great. Entertainment was really third rate; a juggler, a magician, some entertainer whose claim to fame was that he was once on the David Letterman show! Anyone remember when David Letterman was on TV, how about Gary Moore or Arthur Godfrey? I did happen by the "Learn Origami" event; there were SIX participants. Upon checking the mini bar in the stateroom, I compared what was supposed to be there on the list and found more than half missing. Knowing there are often problems people try to correct on the last morning, I decided to try beforehand. The guest services person calmly told me that all things in plastic bottles had been removed, no notice, no updated inventory list, no correction. Just poor management. It is interesting to note that the "drinks package" encourages people to drink more than they should. wine with breakfast, really? We are not big drinkers and the package was one of the options, seems like a good deal until you read the fine print. The "service charge" would be much, much more than we would ever pay for buying drinks individually. The ports on the west coast are nearly all container ports. Long walks to anything other than gantries and trucks. Our best stop was in Guatamala where the locals have made a small park with vendors and entertainment. In Santa Marta, Colombia, the gantry, taller than the ship was within four feet of the ship. I did learn a lot about how container ports work. Our worst experience was with disembarkation. We needed assistance and were told where to go and wait for help. When we arrived at our appointed time, there were about forty others needing assistance. There were TWO people to help, we were place of the list and when the announcement came that ALL GUESTS should be shore, there were still about twenty waiting, the help had disappeared. We managed to hobble our way off the ship and for the first time, we were the very LAST people ashore, the next cruise passengers were boarding. This was our tenth and last cruise on Norwegian. The line is focused on getting every possible dime from it's "guests" . The constant selling of useless dodads, and overpriced, low quality jewelry is mind boggling. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
The Panama Canal transit was something I rely wanted to do and as a bonus this cruise sailed from San Francisco. We booked with a 2 night stay there before we sailed and that was well worth it. Embarkation was quick and the luggage was ... Read More
The Panama Canal transit was something I rely wanted to do and as a bonus this cruise sailed from San Francisco. We booked with a 2 night stay there before we sailed and that was well worth it. Embarkation was quick and the luggage was soon delivered to the cabin. It is probably the smallest cabin we have had compared to other cruise companies though we look on it as just somewhere to sleep. There was a surprising amount of storage for a small space. The ports of call were frequent and an interesting mix of sights. We mostly booked excursions through the ship and they were reasonably priced. The organisation of getting cruisers out on excursions was shambolic. Daytime entertainment seemed to be aimed at selling you something on the whole. Craft sessions (origami) were timed just as you got back from an excursion with no time to eat and were not available on sea days. The evening shows were excellent. Praise must go to the ships dance company and it was a pity they only did a once a week show. We dine mainly in the buffet and it was good that we could also go to the "Irish" pub and the Asian restaurant to ring the changes. The main dining rooms only offered the same menu and this didn't seem to change throughout the 3 weeks. The buffet had a good and varied choice with themed evenings on occasion. Disembarkation was not well organised. Timed colour bands for luggage had been issued but the allocated times were ignored. We ended the cruise in New York and having had a slow and disorganised exit from the ship we then had a long wait to go through immigration. This involved a queue outside in 0 degree temperatures for 30 minutes or more then still more queuing in a cold and drafty shed that took about 1 hour. We would be reluctant to go with NCL again unless they were sailing somewhere different to other cruise lines. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
This is my 26th review for Cruise Critic. Unlike some reviewers that join this group just to complain about a bad experience, I have, for the past 10+ years felt obliged to write about my cruise experiences. I am a professional writer in ... Read More
This is my 26th review for Cruise Critic. Unlike some reviewers that join this group just to complain about a bad experience, I have, for the past 10+ years felt obliged to write about my cruise experiences. I am a professional writer in another life which tends to make my reviews long and thorough. If you want to know simply if we liked our time on the Gem, just count the stars. If you want to know the how’s and why’s, read and enjoy. This was our 47th cruise and our 13th with Norwegian. We favor RCCL because of the perks from their loyalty program (we are Diamond with them) but we went on this cruise for the itinerary. We are both in our early-mid 60’s. NCL has an updated cellphone app and I’m happy to report that it is finally worthwhile. Previously it had been so far behind RCCL’s app that it was abysmal. I started making dinner reservations 5 weeks before boarding. I’m not sure that you can even do that with RCCL’s app. The dinner reservations that I made weeks before boarding began populating a calendar in the app immediately. This is a HUGE improvement and makes the app very useful. The Freestyle Daily is on the app; a huge improvement, but you still can’t add to your calendar the daily activities that you want to partake in. This app is way better than it used to be but if you have sampled Royal Caribbean’s app you can’t help but compare. We got to the terminal at 11am and the security line was already a bit backed up. Our Platinum status with NCL had us on the vessel by 11:30 and that is with a slow moving queue in the gangway. My first impression of the ship was excellent. The ocean view stateroom (#4602) is a bit roomier than expected and the bathroom has a door that closes off the toilet and another one that contains the shower, both nice touches especially for a low-end room. Storage is plentiful. This was a 3-week cruise. We didn’t pack for 3 weeks as we always plan to have laundry done mid-cruise, but there was more storage than we needed. This isn’t the case on the Breakaway, for example, which sorely lacks in places for clothes in the cabins that we have stayed in. We had lunch in the Grand Pacific dining room. Surely better than dealing with the masses in the food hall on boarding day. It is too crazy up there for us. Dinner at Teppanyaki was exceptional! We have always liked this venue, but this time was even better than we’d remembered. A+! It was weird to be the only 2 people in there. I’m not sure why no one books specialty dining on the first night of a cruise. We always do. We finished the first day at the casino. The first breakfast in the mess hall was typical. We didn’t have trouble getting a seat. Breakfast was fine, service was good. Still too cold outside for me! As Platinum members, we got priority tender tickets and headed ashore at Santa Barbara. We didn’t spend much time ashore but relaxed aboard and had dinner in the Grand Pacific. We don’t often eat in the MDR, but it was good and so was the service. The magician was ok, nothing spectacular. As we expected, this cruise is full of people in their 70’s and 80’s. There won’t be much clamoring for seats at the theater or at a restaurant. I suspect that They’re all going to have an early bedtime. Day 3 began with an early arrival in LA and breakfast at O’Sheehan. Breakfast here is boring and predictable but there are ample tables and a waitstaff. We did an excursion to Rodeo Drive and met family for lunch there which was great. Dinner was at Le Bistro, the French specialty dining venue. Instead of using one of our dining package credits, I used one of the Platinum specialty dining vouchers. I assumed that these were equivalent to a specialty dining meal but they are not. There are a number of restrictions and ultimately it gives NCL the opportunity to show how they really can “nickel and dime” you to death. Example: my wife had the Lamb. There was an upcharge of $1.20. I had the Filet Mignon which had no upcharge. (Both were outstanding). In the end, they handed us a check for $1.20. This epitomizes “nickel and diming” in my view. It’s hard to believe that they do this with a straight face! Day 4 was a sea day. We relaxed. It was still rather cool outside, perhaps a bit around 70, but we spent some time on deck. The barbecue lunch was decent. There aren’t many activities planned on this ship. We don’t live for the activities but it is odd to see so few. We spent some time at the art auction. The menu selection at the MDRs didn’t seem interesting so, without a reservation, we showed up at La Cucina, the Italian specially restaurant. We had an excellent meal. At the theater was a sing and dance show called Swing. It was ok. We didn’t stay for the whole thing. We relaxed for the rest of the night. On day 5, we arrived in Cabo San Lucas at around 11. We have a Camel back ride on the beach planned here. We strongly recommend this excursion. Excellent time. I’m puzzled by the Cruise Director Luz. I don’t live and die by the cruise director. I don’t need them to have a good time, but in my view, she is a dud. Her thick Latin accent is a bit of a crutch but that aside, she just doesn’t seem to have any stand-alone talents. Don’t expect to see her on any new ships like the Joy or the Encore. On the 6th day we were in Puerto Vallarta. A new port for us. We took a $10 cab into town and had a great lunch. It’s a cool town. Dinner was at the MDR and it was very good. We don’t often go to the MDR. In fact, there have been some cruises where we never visited the free dining room at all. We have enjoyed our meals in the MDR so far. Admittedly, if we don’t see menu items that intrigue us, we will use a dining package voucher. That’s the plan. Tonight’s show was a 4-man vocal group called These Guys. They were really excellent. We are nearly a week into this cruise and we both feel like the Gem is exceeding our expectations. We boarded expecting to not like this vessel all that much. But we got on this cruise for the itinerary; 13 amazing ports (10 of them new for us) plus the Panama Canal over a 3 week period. We knew the ship was old, but we are not finding it to be decrepit. Some reviewers have said that it is badly in need of an update. This isn’t so. The exterior seems a bit shop-worn and in need of paint at some places, but the interior is modern and nice. The ship lacks the hi-tech amenities like a roller coaster, laser tag, bumper cars and skydiving, but those ships don’t go to the ports that this ship goes to. You have to make a choice. As I said, this cruise was about the ports and we didn’t sail to those ports in a rusty bucket of bolts. At least, that’s my feeling a week in. Tomorrow: Ixtapa, Mexico. Day 7 started with breakfast in the dining room. This is a welcome diversion from the mess tent but I wish the food was better. The service is nice but in spite of NCL’s efforts to offer some different items (I had Biscuit Eggs Benedict) they’re never as good as they sound. At least not yet. We lounged by the pool and then took a tender ashore to Ixtapa, Mexico. We had lunch at a beachside restaurant there. We had an excellent meal at Moderno tonight, but what is most notable to us is the service. In each of our specialty dining experiences, the Matre ‘d has come to our table, introduced himself, and offered us something. Maybe it was a complimentary Espresso, dessert or maybe just his business card, but in every case, he made us feel special. The magician on board gave his second show, a decided upgrade from his first one. Bravo! The entertainment here isn’t Broadway-type like on Royal or like on the Breakaway, but it’s better than we expected. We topped this day off with a remarkably cooperative Blackjack table in the casino. Day 8 was a sea day. It’s getting hot out. Finally got in a pool day! The cooking demonstration was good. We usually skip the port talk but since these are all new ports, we took that in. Lunch at O’Sheehan was good. It’s Always free there but it’s a limited menu that never changes. I’ve read some reviews here where someone has a negative opinion about something and then supports it by saying that “I heard others saying the same thing” as though they need input from others in order to validate their own opinion. Well, not to sound as though I’ve jumped on that bandwagon, but so far we have bumped into a number of people that have sailed the Gem before and love it and proclaim that they would never sail a mega ship. While I don’t agree with their disdain for mega ships, it’s easy to see, so far, why this vessel has many fans. It’s annoying that some voyagers join this board for the sole purpose of bitching about a single substandard experience. Often they have little to complain about. We had dinner at Cagney’s tonight. It was good. Being Platinum members, we were able to walk in without reservations, but don’t try that without Latitude status. We would have had to wait until 8:30 to dine otherwise. I still don’t like that NCL has upcharges on certain menu items even with the dining package. It really screams “nickel and dime”. Nicaragua was an interesting port. We hired a bicycle taxi around town and bought a couple of things. A couple of days ago, the ship, reacting to the worldwide Coronovirus problem, changed the way they do things in the Garden Cafe. Passengers no longer touch anything. Staff members serve everything from water to coffee to toast to anything in warming trays. It works fine. Good service actually. It’s good too see them able to react on the fly like that. Our laundry came back today. What a nice presentation! Our clothes came back nicely folded and packaged in two straw baskets! Very impressive! We have yet to hit the Garden Cafe for one of their specialty nights. It was Italian night a couple nights ago, Indian Night last night and Greek night tonight. I’m not sure what to expect so we went to LeBistro again. It was great but I’m starting to feel like I’m overeating. We had a zip line through the jungle excursion in Costa Rica today. So after a quick breakfast we headed to the pier for that. Highly recommended excursion. We went to the MDR for dinner and were not impressed. The choices were not inspired and the service was a bit slow. There is no doubt that the specialty restaurant are a cut above. MDR meals are mediocre. The Blazing Boots production show is a salute to country music. Not our genre, so we didn’t stay for the entire show. Some may find it entertaining. Next day was a much needed relaxing sea day. We had dinner at La Cucina again. This is a terrific restaurant. The comedy juggler was surprisingly entertaining. Finally the highlight of the cruise arrives- the Panama Canal crossing. This should be on everyone’s bucket list. It takes all day, starting around 6:30 am. The best view, really, is from your stateroom where you can see everything from the bow camera on the tv. The narrator on the PA was excellent. They open up deck 8 forward to the public for a close-up view which is normally a crew-only deck. They offer a 6 minute time-lapse movie of the entire canal crossing for $30. Well worth it. We had dinner at the complimentary Orchid Garden which was good. We don’t find that the MDR has attractive choices for dinner to lure us there although we had an excellent lunch there. The evenings entertainment was a hypnotist. He was hardly entertaining in our view so we left after 15 minutes. Day 14 brings us to Cartagena Columbia. A new port, country and continent for this world traveler. We started with breakfast in the dining room. This is notable because I had the Golden Waffle with Banana. This doesn’t sound like much but it is the best breakfast item I have ever had on land or sea! Delicious! I will be back to the dining room this coming week for this item. I loved it! We booked a Carriage ride in Cartagena this morning. This turned out to be a good choice of excursions. A bus tour through the new and old city, a horse-drawn carriage ride through old town and a couple of stops for shopping/photos. We went to Le Bistro for dinner again. It has become our favorite. We skipped the show in favor of a casino investment. On day 15, we docked in Santa Marta Columbia. There’s a free shuttle that brings you close to town where there are more street vendors than we have ever seen anywhere in the world. There were thousands. After lunch at O’Sheehan’s we took a much needed rest. The hot sun really took its toll. As we made our way to the Caribbean where we have been a great number of times, it was good to not have the pressure of wanting not to miss seeing a place that we’ve never seen. After breakfast, we walked through Aruba and we were back on board for lunch at the mess hall. Oftentimes you read that there’s no variety up there. That just isn’t true. There are a few staples, just like in the MDR, but there are new items every day and we haven’t had anything that was cold or inedible. We enjoyed having the pool area pretty much to ourselves. After a rest we had dinner at Cagneys. It was A++. In Curaçao, we rented a scooter and toured the island. There isn’t much here as compared to mainstream Caribbean islands but we had a good day but a crappy lunch. Dinner at Moderno was a disappointment. They couldn’t get meat medium rare. It was either over cooked or under cooked. Geez. I left stuffed anyway. There was an acrobat couple called Duo Destiny. Best show so far!! Tomorrow is day 18 in Bonaire. Kudos to you if you’re still reading this! There isn’t much going on in Bonaire but after a quick breakfast we had 4-5 hours to make the best of it so we rented a golf cart for $95 and drove around most of the island. It was worthwhile and cost less than what an excursion would have cost for the 2 of us. Back on board, we finally tried the Topsiders BBQ. It was ok. We only have 3 dinners left on our 12 dinners dining package and there are 4 nights to go. Gone are the days when they had prime rib and lobster on any given night in the MDR. The MDR just isn’t for us. If you’re ok with basic run of the mill food, you’ll be ok, but if you lean towards fine dining, forget it. I presume, at this point, that it’s NCL. We haven’t seen such poor MDR selections at RCCL but we haven’t been on that line in probably 2 years. We haven’t had bad meals at the MDR, but certainly not great ones. Tonight, I’ll pay out of pocket for Teppanyaki because it’s not ala carte. The next 3 nights are sure to please with La Cucina, Cagneys and Le Bistro. At breakfast this morning, we were at the Grand Pacific MDR again. I noted the tag line on the table placard. It says “nobody does dining like Norwegian”. This is a true statement. Carnival and Royal do dining differently than NCL. They do it better. I have said this before and not stuck to it: this is my last cruise with NCL. But they have some great itineraries (like this one) and some great attractions (race track, laser tag), terrific entertainment (Rock of Ages, A Choir of Man, Jersey Boys) but it bugs me that the mainstream food; the free food in the MDR, really misses the mark. Gone are the days of Lobster and Prime Rib night. The food in the MDR is really basic. The presentations are nice, the service is good, but the imagination as far as menu items is non-existent. In spite of the shortcomings of Platinum status, one huge advantage that we found was being able to show up at a Specialty Restaurant and eat when we wanted, regardless of when - or if - we had reservations. This is a big plus. On this, the second to the last sea day, it seems like the Specialty Restaurants were quite full and our reservation at Cagneys was at 7:45. We showed up at 5:30 and I said that I was ready to eat now. I got no pushback. And we were seated within minutes. Very professional. On the last day of any cruise, they always have these “blow-out” sales where they offer all sorts of souvenirs in a flea market atmosphere. Here, they turned the Orchid Garden and Sushi restaurants into a flea(bag) marketplace. What a disgusting low-class thing to do!! I can hardly believe my eyes! NCL does stupid things. They do it to themselves. They could be so much better than they are if they would only re-think the things that they do and consider the customer viewpoints a bit more diligently. Our final dinner had to be at Le Bistro. The Matrie’d Sandrick took amazing care of us, not only this time but all 4 visits to this great restaurant. The final show was a 70’s & 80’s retro song and dance show. Right up our alley! We loved it!! Finally, it was time to go home after 3 weeks. Debarkation is very poorly done. No platinum lounge, don’t sit here, don’t wait there. Geez, treat me like a customer. The disaster at the end of the cruise is reason enough to say that RCCL is the way to go in the future Recalling that we have similar status with NCL (Platinum) and RCCL (Diamond), the associated perks with Royal are head and shoulders above NCL, but that’s not what this review is about. This was an excellent vacation and an extraordinary itinerary on a fine ship. But NCL has some shortcomings and frankly, I think that they are, in some cases, self-inflicted. For example, the incident with the $1.20 upcharge for the lamb that my wife ordered. They should raise the price of the cruise for everyone by $1 and not do this to avoid the embarrassment of looking like extreme cheapskates. As Diamond members on Royal, we get so many perks, such as the Diamond Club, that we really feel like Royalty. Admittedly, on this cruise with NCL we are able to dine in Specialty restaurants without reservations that are otherwise booked solid which we appreciate, but all things considered, the bennies do not compare. Still, this cruise, which is what this review is about was excellent. The ship was perfectly acceptable (we didn’t expect more from such an old ship), the food was good because we made it so, (we didn’t pay much for the cruise, but paid a few hundred dollars more to eat good food) and the entertainment was on par with what we expected; no spectacular shows like Royal, but plenty of variety. And with variety, you will like some shows more than others, by definition. With a port-intensive itinerary like this one, you are perfectly fine with skipping a show here and there. Do I wish Royal had done this cruise on the Allure of the Seas? Yes, I do. But it would cost double or triple as much, the older crowd would never pay the price and therefore it would never happen. We went on this cruise and we have no regrets. It was great. I do wish that NCL did certain things differently but their trend is in the other direction, so, just as I have concluded other NCL reviews, we will continue to favor RCCL heavily. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and the fact that it left San Francisco and ended in New York. Being from the East Coast, we only had to fly one way. This cruise had 13 port stops which was wonderful. The ship was almost ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and the fact that it left San Francisco and ended in New York. Being from the East Coast, we only had to fly one way. This cruise had 13 port stops which was wonderful. The ship was almost all senior citizens which we expected due to the length of the cruise. We met some wonderful people from all over the world and it was so interesting talking with them. We enjoyed all the port stops although once we got to Columbia, it was hot, really hot, so it took away from our enjoyment of the city tour we took. The gentleman who boarded the ship for the narrative of the Panama Canal was terrific. He was very well informed and explained everything as it was happening. I have read many comments regarding the food on Norwegian. We have sailed with this cruise line ten times and know that the variety in the main dining room is very limited, The left side of the menu is always the same, only the right side changing daily. On previous cruises, we found the food was served warm if not cold at times. Not on this cruise. Our food always arrived hot. We went to O'Sheehan's for breakfast almost every day as it was not crowded, you could get a window seat and the service was terrific. The menu is limited, but had what we wanted. We enjoy eating in the Garden Buffet, but do not like the fact that one of you has to sit down to secure a table while the other one gets food. By the time you get back to the table, the other person is finished eating. We prefer the restaurants but when in a hurry will resort to the buffet. The main dining room serves a very nice lunch and you are able to get sandwiches as well as a full meal. Our cabin was always immaculate. Carla was our cabin steward and she was so friendly and helpful. The cabin itself was very nice. We had a balcony (the only way to go through the Canal) and there was ample room for our things. Being a 21 day cruise, we had a lot of stuff and everything fit somewhere. We have never used the laundry service prior to this cruise and this time we used it twice. The wash was returned the next day and folded so nicely. We were impressed. We are platinum members so we ate at Cagney's several times, our favorite restaurant. I have read many reviews about NCL compared to other cruise lines. And yes, some of the others have better meal selections and shows, but your have to weigh what you are willing to pay for. We cruise for the joy of seeing new places and experiencing new adventures and as long as we have a good meal to keep us going we are fine. We also cruise, not so much as to a particular cruise line, but to the destination to which it is going and since NCL sails out of New York, it cannot get any easier for us living n eastern Pennsylvania. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
My issues are mostly with the home office: 1. With an average passenger age of 66, we were required to stand in a long line to get to the line to go through the metal detector to go to the REALLY long line to check in. We stood in lines ... Read More
My issues are mostly with the home office: 1. With an average passenger age of 66, we were required to stand in a long line to get to the line to go through the metal detector to go to the REALLY long line to check in. We stood in lines for more than 3 hours. There were six people to check 4,000 passengers in--and they shut everything down for a 10 minute break while hundreds of us waited. 2. The shore excursions were hit or miss. A few that we took were excellent, most were OK and a couple were terrible. 3. The main dining rooms had maybe three different menus for a 16 night cruise--very little variety. In addition several of the entrees were very dry. 4. The evaluation process was non-existent. At the bottom of one of the daily newsletters was a note telling us that if we didn't get an e-mail, we could send our comments to a PO Box.Of course, there were no e-mails. I'd like to share some of this with the cruise line, but they have made it very clear that they don't want to hear from passengers. Issues with the cruise itself. 1. On-board communication was terrible.I had to call the front desk to find out which deck we would leave from. A fellow passenger mentioned that we could get our towels folded like animals if we asked. 2. No seats were available for several of the theater performances, including the first night, which had been completely booked before anyone boarded (and no one bothered to inform us that we could book in advance). 3. The final breakfast was a disaster. Many of us like a served breakfast before dis-boarding. Of the three main dining rooms, only one was open. Fortunately we were there when it opened and got seats. The line as we left was very long. It took us a hour and fifteen minutes to get our food. With staff and kitchen help for three dining rooms, surely they could have done an adequate job of staffing for the final breakfast rush. So, the cruise started with a terrible first impression and ended with a bad last impression. In between it was O.K. If this is the way Norwegian treats passengers on its largest, newest flagship, I shudder to think of how they treat people on their other ships. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
My Husband and I were looking for a winter getaway from the cold of the Midwest and choose the Panama Canal Cruise because of the January departure from Los Angeles, Ca. This was one of those bucket list trips for us. There were lines ... Read More
My Husband and I were looking for a winter getaway from the cold of the Midwest and choose the Panama Canal Cruise because of the January departure from Los Angeles, Ca. This was one of those bucket list trips for us. There were lines to enter the cruise terminal but after check in there were seats for sitting while waiting. Entering the ship went pretty smooth and we were pleased how our bags and pre-ordered water were in the room. Our cabin was small but nice. On a couple of cleanings our cabin steward forgot to bring us any towels but that was okay as they came within a moment after calling them. The entertainment was top notch with Footloose, Elements, and a variety of entertainers. The main dining room was poor (The Manhattan). The service had no teamwork and we were without water refills and assistance with menu questions, wrong beverage coffee. It took way too long 2 hours for the little that we ordered. The food had tough meat and a menu that rarely changed. We did enjoy The Local which prepared food delivered to table and also The Savor and The Taste. The menus there repeated often as well but the food was okay and the dessert options better. The buffet at the Garden Cafe was usually not hot and sometimes the cold items not cold. After the 9th day they started removing salt, pepper, sugar, and silverware from tables Then a couple of days later no was was to serve their own food and ropes partitioned people from food items with staff handing out all silverware, plates napkins, stir sticks, and food. We were no longer asked to use the hand sanitizer or met at the door with washy, washy staff but rather stood in long lines to use a sink, soap and water. We all knew there was a problem of unknown illnesses and people quit eating there causing long lines at the other restaurants. We ended up eating some protein bars from home rather than risk the outbreak. Meals were now being delivered to rooms and we were told that stewards had less rooms to clean than when the cruise began. People everywhere were coughing and one day visitors were seen onboard wearing guest passes in Guatemala. That made us think CDC under the circumstances amid hearing on the news about the Corona virus. We were never told what illnesses were happening but elevators and stairs were no longer busy. People were out on deck in the air or at the observation deck and at the evening show only. Although the staff were cleaning constantly it did not seem to help. Disembarking was a disaster with handicapped and the rest of the cruisers all leaving at once. There were long lines and from cabin to bus took over 3 hours. There was only one gangway for all to depart on. (Norwegian blamed customs for the delays, but customs went very smoothly for us). After getting to the bus it took another 3 hours to travel 5 miles to the airport, get off the bus, walk over 30 minutes in the airport take a tram to the car rental place, rent the car and find it in the car rental parking garage. Total time from Cabin to leaving in car rental garage was 6 hours.) Because of the quality of the food, variety lacking menus, problems with communications from staff to what we were encountering, (people were sent off 3 different times from ship for medical problems to hospitals) we would not sail Norwegian again. Others we met who were Norwegian cruisers only or multiple times with Norwegian vowed never to use them again after this experience. We could not endorse them to others as well. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We took the Norwegian Joy from LA to Miami on Jan 17, 2020 because it went through the Panama Canal, which was on out bucket list. We have done several cruises on various cruise lines, but this was our first Norwegian cruise. It is also ... Read More
We took the Norwegian Joy from LA to Miami on Jan 17, 2020 because it went through the Panama Canal, which was on out bucket list. We have done several cruises on various cruise lines, but this was our first Norwegian cruise. It is also our last Norwegian cruise. Embarking/Disembarking This was the worst embarking experience we have had in 15 cruises. Very long line and wait times. No explanations as to why. Worst embarkation ever. This was the worst disembarking experience we have had in 15 cruises. They got 2 hours behind scheduled disembarking times. Worst disembarkation ever. Service The service on the Joy was not exceptional like other cruise ship. The service in the main dining rooms was excruciatingly slow, not just once in a while but always. And when we did get our food, it was usually not hot. Quite often they would get orders mixed up or not bring a complete order. We were actually surprised because we have never experienced such poor service on a cruise ship before. Food In general, food in the buffet and main dining rooms was disappointing and boring. Not what we have been used to on other cruises. Every night, in all three main dining rooms, for 16 days, we had the same choice of entrees with just one or two different options. Fish, beef, or chicken. We missed having prime rib, duck, lamb, lobster. You had to go to a specialty restaurant to get those. It seems like they do this so that you have to pay extra to upgrade to their specialty restaurants. Some of the beef meals we got were tough and inedible. The same chicken meal ordered on different days were quite different, spicy one time, not the other. The soups were often very salty. Desserts were disappointing as well. Entertainment The entertainment on the Joy was pretty good. Footloose and Elements were excellent. There were some very funny comedians/jugglers. Po the magician was a joke. There is a problem with the theater being way too small for the amount of passengers on the ship. If you got there 30 minutes before the show, you might not get a seat. There was a tribute Beatles band that were very good. The problem with them was that they were featured in a very small venue (50 seats) called the Cavern. We never did get to see them perform in the Cavern, even though we got there an hour before show time on several nights. Very disappointing. We did get to see them in the main theater however. They did a second main theater show but it was exactly same as the first. They have go-carts and laser-tag but you have to pay extra for them. Itinerary Started out bad as the itinerary kept changing in the months before we even left home. The stop in Costa Rica was at a cargo ship yard. Nice view of cargo containers. There was absolutely no touristy things around. You had to pay $15 to get a shuttle to the nearest town (20 miles away). There was a free shuttle to the dock gate, but nothing to see or do there. The Panama Canal crossing was interesting but was not on schedule. Communication Very poor communication on the ship about what was going on. Especially for when non-scheduled events were happening. Most people were puzzled and confused as to what was happening. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Figured it was time to spend a few bucks rather than just leave it to the kid. So with our slight cruise experience via Royal Caribbean cruise, we'll go big and take a long ride. Norwegian couldn't be that much different than RC. ... Read More
Figured it was time to spend a few bucks rather than just leave it to the kid. So with our slight cruise experience via Royal Caribbean cruise, we'll go big and take a long ride. Norwegian couldn't be that much different than RC. We were wrong. Knew something could be amiss when i visited the Garden Cafe for a bite to eat. Why any cruise company would supply about the cheapest hot dogs possible made me shake my head at the start. And since I'm from Michigan where hot dogs are an art form, yes, there is a massive difference in quality in something so simple. IOW, when you see a pack of hot dogs at the local store for less than a buck, you avoid them at all times yet NCL seems to think, cost cutting is a means towards success. But as the two weeks went on, most the staff was friendly and tried to make our stay as enjoyable as possible but the little things that were cheap just put a tarnish on the whole experience. While I didn't expect a 5 star meal at the breakfast or other buffets everyday, many things were cold and the menu just flat out didn't make sense. And the low ball quality really was evident. Let's face it, when people go on these adventures, they aren't there to be back of the bus passengers. But the ship was nice but the concept of the Haven is one thing I will never go anywhere near. Great that a few want to spend as much as the they want to and get perks. IOW, views were restricted. Again a disappointment. But the one thing that was completely inexcusable was how we let NCL make arrangements for travel to and from. While having nearly 4k passengers leave at once is a logistics nightmare, to book passengers on flight almost 12 hours after they exited, is an insult. Especially since there were other flights that could have easily gotten us out earlier. Will likely cruise again but most likely won't go NCL. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
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