I've been a some other cruises between 2001-2006, like on Royal Caribbean and NCL Norwegian Dawn (ND), both ships, smaller than Norwegian Gem (NG), but much, much nicer, like palaces, like opulent hotels, mirrors and nice entrances, elevators in glass, open space 5 or 6 floors high, magnificent. On Gem the reception area, it is like 3rd class hotel, in the beginning, I asked the reception person where is the Atrium, the Centrum. This is it, she said. wow bummer. Compare NG atrium with ND: see the links
Comparing with our previous experiences, the main difference is that the economic recession affected the cruise industry visibly. They are passing the buck as much as possible, charging as much as possible for anything possible.
For example, there were no trays to carry your food in the buffet lines (imagine if you had a stormy sea and have to walk to a empty table), the bottled water over $5, beer a bit under $5, no free movie channels on TV, $9.99 per movie. The food variety lower than a few years back.
Starting from the begging…it was a big plus, the embarkation was much, much better organized than other times. Almost no wait to get on the ship, went through all the checks in probably 10 minutes. The embarkation started at midday, they would call numbers, very nicely organized. We waited much longer, lol, almost half an hour to make some specialty restaurants reservations (they hand only two persons and only one computer working). When we got on the boat, in the Atrium, the guys from the Caffe bar greeted us with nice cocktails, joyfully welcoming on board, and asking for our key card to pay for the colorful cocktails (9 bucks if I remember correctly)…warning… they are not free. Not long after that we went to our staterooms. I am a map person, so the first think was to look for the daily boat pamphlets, and the boat layout map. I found the schedule for the day, but maps? Noap, no such a thing. Even on the daily schedule, the way the info was put, the restaurants location, hours etc, were not very easy to digest.
Regarding the food, I will be more specific in the dining category below, the food was ok, not too much variety, very crowed, lines to get omelets, lines to get “orange” juice, if you could find it.
Regarding boat stops activities.
In Orlando, we went to Cocoa Beach. Nice weather, the water a bit cold. Some taxi buses had arrangements with the cruise lines to transport passengers to/from boats to the beach. In the same day it was also a Royal Caribbean boat there. At around 5 PM was the last pick up shuttle. We went at about 4 PM at the pick up spot, where it was a sign “for Norwegian Gem” and were a group of people waiting. After a while some other people came from RC ship and they formed another line, 15 feet before NG. Nobody knew if those Taxi buses will carry both parties or they were separate for NG and RC. The fact is that when the bus came at 5, the driver, (Ronald Sterling was id in the bus), stopped where the RC group was and which came there after us. Imagine the frustration when that big crowed starting pushing, trying to get on the bus, and some of the people that were among the first in line, couldn’t get on the bus. We had to travel back, standing in bus crowed like sardines and he drove us to the Royal Caribbean ship first. Very poor organization and service.
In Great Stirrup Cay, they made a lot of new improvements, be aware that the lounge chairs are free but those covers $30. The food was better, more variety. The drinks ok, except beer, I am an European beer drinker, so from 5 spots/bars, only one had Heineken and of course long line.
In Nassau was ok, you can do so many things. We went to see the aquarium in Atlantis Hotel, but now is $39 bucks and even to access parts of the outside hotel (with great water views) is not allowed anymore.
The voyage back was ok, normal.
Ship Quality Average
As I said before, the ship is bigger than what I experienced before but the Atrium is UGLY, it doesn't exist. The main eating area-Garden Caffe (Buffet) it has such an inefficient layout, it is smaller or seems smaller than Norwegian Dawn (ND). It seems that even if the ship is bigger, the extra space was used for cabins but the public areas weren't increased proportionally I guess, they are smaller, that's way it was crowded at dining, at pool, at the bowling/karaoke/disco lounge (Bliss Ultra Lounge). Good thing that they are clean, a very clean ship, EXCEPT, even if "washy washy" was the motto in the dining areas, I found to issues: 1-the close napkins that had wrapped the fork and knife were that clean at all 2-more dangerous, how the staff would clean the table after somebody else was disgusting, with some cheap blue cloth, no detergent.
Quality food for the restaurants that we went:--Buffet areas: Garden Caffe, ok, shortage of paper napkins, tea spoons, very crowed.
Difficult to find seats, many times we will find seats all the way at the aft open area where they did not have as much food as in the middle buffet, the bar was closed at breakfast, you were lucky to find one of the the 2 or 3 Orange Juice dispenser (by the clock, they were available only during the breakfast)
Great Outdoors, ok, same like GC but much less variety. If it was not windy, it was very crowded.
The Pool Grill; I am wondering why it is called Grill, very poor offer of BBQ and grill; some chicken and ribs. The worse cruise regarding BBQ.
On most of the Buffet areas, if don’t hold on your food, the waiters will take your plate even if you did not finish, very annoying.
Summer Palace Main Restaurant; almost OK; we had steak, it was like the cow was a bodybuilder, it was medium done as requested but, the meat was so hard.Indigo Main (Magenta on the ship); better than Palace, good food, very good service, drinks Le Bistro; very good, the Fillet Mignon was a delish, wine good, nice variety from $20-30 something to $120. The service a bit slow. Cagney Steakhouse; excellent food, drinks and service. Best Margaritas from Star Bar. La Cucina; ok, the pizza not that ok for an “Italian” restaurant, but pretty good for a cruise --Bars: Good and cheap (bet $2-$5) coffees and lattés from Java Cafe
Stateroom Quality: Good We had a balcony room 10th deck. The toilette very small, but the rest was nice, very good insulation, you barely can here the outside public announcements. Not too many times we found the towel animals; on Royal C. almost every day we will have another animal, sometimes twice a day. TV program very poor, no free movies, not even 1 channel; it was something like the preferred programs that was mostly for kids or nothing.
Ship Staff Quality: Very Good
Entertainment & Activities Good
Sinan is funny funny funny. But as I read, his nickname was the Bingo boy. Not that I am such a bingo fun, but damn it if I heard more than two times that they have Bingo games...and when I heard it, they were at not a very good time. The shows were also funny and entertaining, except much acclaimed Second City; I cannot digest at all this type of fun.
They have a casino also, which was ok.
Bottom line, I would think twice before taking a trip on this ship.