Length: 965 ft
Passengers (all berths): 2,376
One of the better "previous generation" NCL ships, many dining options, look for 7-day bargainsBest For People Who Want
Best for People who Want: A terrestrial resort-style vacation, but at sea; very flexible dining with a large variety of alternative restaurants.Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Should be Avoided By People Who Prefer: Quiet settings, understated decor, all-inclusive cruises where all dinners are taken at pre-set times in the dining room with the same table and waiters every night.Onboard Experience
Nowhere at sea can you enjoy something more closely resembling a terrestrial resort vacation than on Norwegian Gem, especially when it comes to dining options. For those who like to try a different cuisine every night, Gem is absolutely heaven-sent. The days at sea are jam-packed with activities, from cooking/carving demonstrations, gaming lessons, art auctions, health seminars, putting contests, diamond and gem seminars, basic language courses, and snorkeling demos, to makeover seminars, bridge play, and even finance-themed lectures. And if all that isn't quite enough for you, there are, for extra fees, wine, martini and margarita tastings; yoga; Pilates; indoor cycling; bingo; and instruction in massage.
On the pool deck, the water slide takes up a lot of acreage and most of the foot traffic is on the deck opposite the teen facility, so on sea days the pool areas get crowded. The upper deck, though, is a fairly reliable refuge. There are 1,047 deck chairs on board, and not a single cushion, unless someone's smuggled one aboard.Public Rooms
In keeping with the burgeoning trend by NCL to take on Carnival for the "most like a theme park" decor award, one word that will never come to mind aboard Gem, is "understated." In contrast to elegance, whether simple or not, as on Princess or the luxury lines, this ship will appeal to people who enjoy raising their pulse. The color and design in Spinnakers Lounge is bright enough to send you back to your stateroom for sunglasses. The chaise lounges for two seem like something from the decadent Roman age, while the deep blue sateen, inverted comma-shaped, tabels and chairs seem to grow out the similarly colored carpet also filled with similar design patterns. These cushy couches are punctuated by chairs that evoke NASA nosecones.
Chairs & Loungers in Spinnakers Nightclub
The Bliss Nightclub is even more decadent with its king-size bed chaise lounges that evoke the silent question "What time does the orgy start?" Deep blue, orange and gold sateen cover every surface except the cocktail tables, dance floor and the the four bowling lanes on either side of the room.
Satiny chair and overstuffed pillows Bowling Alley Plush queen-size loungers in Bliss A king-size lounge-bed in Bliss
The Internet cafe, open 24 hours a day, features eight computer stations. After an account activation fee of $3.95, the basic charge is .75 per minute. Frequent users do better with package rates: 250 minutes for $100 or 100 minutes for $55. Shorter plans the last day of the cruise include 15 minutes for $8.25 and 30 minutes for $12.
The wood burl shelves of The Library groan happily beneath the weight of a good selection of self-help, sports, travel, science, history, fiction and children's books in multiple languages. Passengers can check out three at a time.Cuisine
The restaurants are more conducive to relaxation, especially Le Bistro and Mambo's Tapas Restaurant. La Cucina's appetizers and pasta are very delicious, as too is Le Bistro's filet mignon. Many passengers seem to enjoy watching the Teppenaki's predictably exhibitionistic chefs through the large picture window design. The $5 all-you-can-eat sushi menu, effective day or night, is a remarkably good deal. The menu at the two main dining rooms is the same each day.Restaurants
The two main dining rooms, Azura and Tsar's Palace, seat 310 and 552, respectively. The very attractive Russian themed Tsar's, all royal burgundy, green, and gold, with chandeliers, marbled pillars and faux Faberge egg balustrades, is two stories tall, with fabulous huge windows aft. There are seldom lines for either Tsar's or the smaller, sleeker, pop-art-decorated Azura. Traditional cruise-ship style dining arrangements are offered; if you want to be seated at the same time each night, at the same table, simply arrange it with the maitre 'd. Either Tsar's or Azura is open for breakfast and lunch.
The Garden Café and Great Outdoors buffet areas offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. Meals are always varied, occasionally with a culinary theme. Multiple serving stations are surprisingly efficient to preclude crowding, even on days at sea. Serving stations for breakfast include custom-made waffles and omelets, while lunch and dinner feature pastas and sauces in the combination of your choice.
Garden Court Carving Station Outdoor Grill near Garden Cafe Separate Action Stations Ice Cream Station
Le Bistro, the line's signature alternative restaurant, does French. Each of the other four other restaurants has its own specialty. Cagney's does steaks, Tango's Tapas does Tex-Mex; Chin Chin does Chinese, Teppanyaki, Shabu-Shabu and sushi; and we'll let you guess what Mama's Italian Kitchen does. Neither Mama's nor Tango's levies an extra charge. The others charge a modest $10 or $15. All are open for dinner. Cagney's, Chin Chin, and Le Bistro all halve their cover charge between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.
Next to the buffet area, the casual Blue Lagoon, overlooking the water or the atrium, is a great place to grab a snack when returning from a shore excursion. It is open from 10 p.m. at night until 4:30 the following afternoon.
In an impressive leap forward in the art of free-style dining, NCL's all original and innovative reservations system lets guests book tables anytime they want during the cruise for the entire week, beginning as soon as they board. There a TV-style monitors throughout the ship showing the hours of operation for each restaurant and how busy they are at any given moment. If the restuarant you walk up to is too crowded, you can ask the Maitre D' to book you in another restuarant right on the spot. No other cruise line does this. Upon making a selection, the party is given a beeper, allowing them to wander the ship until their table is ready.Service
The staff, recruited from all over the globe, is generally attentive and pleasant.Tipping
$10 per adult per day and $5 per child are added to your folio automatically. Fifteen percent is automatically added to bar bills and spa services. NCL suggests that concierges and butlers be tipped separately in accordance with the services they provide.Entertainment
The main entertainment venue, the Stardust Theatre, customarily packed, presents nightly Broadway and Vegas-style productions, comedy and magic acts, and a Cirque du Soleil-style aerial thriller, Cirque Bijou, including gymnasts, acrobats and bungee jumpers. Or you might prefer the justly celebrated Second City Troupe, which has produced many of North America's best-loved comedians the past few decades, including Martin Short and Rick Moranis.
Evening and late-night attractions include a 50s/60s dance and comedy show, the Not-So-Newlywed Game, and Liar's Club. The Spinnaker's lounge is a big favorite for people of the 60s and seventies with a great rock-n-roll band including lead guitar, sax and three "chick singers."
The attractive casino's two hundred video games and slot machines include penny slots; to the delight of serious players, the craps tables offers Las Vegas betting odds.
Shore excursions run the gamut from canopy zipline tours for thrill-seekers to sedate sightseeing trips. What they all have in common, unfortunately, is an often endless tender process between ship and shore.Cabins
The ship has 1,188 cherry wood-finished rooms broken down into 32 categories, a positively dizzying range best considered group by group. The largest group, with 1,008 rooms, includes inside rooms at 143 sq. ft.; ocean-view rooms at 158-166 sq. ft.; and ocean-view rooms with balcony at 205 sq. ft. All have safes, hairdryers, TVs and refrigerators, beds that convert from queen to twins, and enough drawer and closet space for two people on a seven-night cruise.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the two groundbreaking Garden Villas, 4,390 sq. ft., have living rooms, dining rooms, sun decks and three separate bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. Each Garden Villa sleeps up to six adults, two kids/adults in rollaway beds and three infants in cribs -- great for a big family. The smaller (574 sq. ft.) 10 Courtyard Villas share a central courtyard with its own pool and small gym.
For those wanting something between the wonderful Villas and the regular inside/outside rooms, there are 168 Owner's Suites, Penthouses, Romance Suites and Mini-Suites. Many of them are placed on the Garden Villa deck and share a common area with a "swim against the current" swimming pool, private massage areas, a private workout area with stairstepper and treadmill and a hot tub.
Owner's Suite Owner's Suite Dining Area Bar and Bedroom Entrance Master Bedroom
On the topmost deck is an expanse of suites all surrounding a private Garden Villa outdoor pool deck. This private area has a swim against the current pool, a hot tub, a private exercise room, massage services available and pool cabanas with double-bed size comfy cushions.
Private Pool Deck View from other end Private Hot tub Cabanas surround the poolFitness/Spa
Body Waves Center, Deck 12, open 24/7, has 14 treadmills with their own TVs, more than 25 other pieces of fitness equipment, abundant free weights, and a large workout area with lots of aerobic equipment, such as steps and balls. The Bora Bora Health Spa and Salon, operated by Mandara, has 20 treatment rooms for such exotic treatments as algae detox, lime and ginger salt glows, coconut rubs, and milk ritual wraps, including three for couples. Men's and women's sides are set up with stream and sauna rooms, whirlpool, indoor lap pool, jet-current exercise pool, hydrotherapy pool, and Jacuzzis.Children's Facilities
Norwegian Gem is wild about them, as witness: interconnecting cabins, a kids-only pool and water slide, and the Splashdown Kid's Club, featuring a kid cinema and video arcade. Where most at-sea children's programs turn their backs on the under-threes, NCL welcomes even those in their terrible twos.
In addition to selections from their own menu, young passengers can eat hot dogs and chicken nuggets in the Kid's Corner buffet, with mini stools and low tables. The complimentary Kid's Crew program is organized by age group: Junior Sailors (2 - 5), First Mates (6 - 9), Navigators (10 - 12) and Teens (13 - 17). Families can gather in the Card Room for a game of Monopoly or Clue, sing together during family karaoke night, or compete in a "Family Feud" game show.Attire
Determinedly casual, though T-shirts, shorts, and tank tops are forbidden in the dining rooms after 5 p.m., except for the Garden Café//Great Outdoors. Very few people dress up for the one "formal optional" night.
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, muchbetter 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.
Washy Washy does not make you Happy Happy...
Just returned from a 7 day cruise from NYC-Port Canaveral, Fl, Great Stirrup Cay Bahamas, and Nassau Paradise Island, Bahamas. We chose this cruise from NYC because we live here and didn't want to incur the flight charges to leave from Florida. This particular cruise line nickel and dimes you for every little thing, while giving you nothing in return. You pay a flat fee for the cruise and you think you have a great bargain. That's until you step on board. There is a fee on this cruise for anything remotely fun. For example, the food in the buffet on Deck 12 reminded me of school cafeteria food. BAD cafeteria food. (and they have the nerve to serve the SAME crappy food downstairs on Deck 7 at the main dining room, and same food for ROOM SERVICE!). You just get a guaranteed seat there, so the staff may bring the disgusting food to you, instead of you chasing it down in a buffet and then looking in vain for a seat. Powdered eggs for breakfast, hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, EVERYDAY for lunchAND dinner. Each day around lunchtime they would set up a grill/wok station near the pool and make rice and chicken. EVERYDAY. So after day 2 and you're bored of the burger/fry combo, you can have chicken and rice for a few days, get bored, then back to the burgers. The free food wasn't even fast food or Applebees quality. It was gross. Pizza was laughable. Pasta dishes were tasteless and dry. This is where the money starts to add up. You have several "specialty" restaurants onboard that charge you extra to eat there. You MUST eat dinner in these specialty places (and pay extra $$), in order to have something edible on your trip. And these specialty places aren't all great. The best ones were of course, the more expensive places. Le Bistro (French , $25 pp), Cagey's (steakhouse, $25 pp), and Teppenyaki (hibachi, $25 pp). Orchid Garden has Chinese Or sushi, for a $15 pp overcharge, but the food was bland and awful. The sushi was disgusting. Tasted like plastic. I have had better sushi at the supermarket. We also tried the Italian place, La Cucina, ($10 pp), but that was atrocious. The staff had no idea which pasta was which, and no clue how to make any Italian dishes. I ordered spaghetti carbonara, and it was oily and gross without cream or any of the right ingredients in it. My boyfriend had gnocchi that was also greasy and tasteless. Never mind the fried calamari. It looked like onion rings from Burger king. Gross. Never had such bad food ever. Always an up charge for something. Cant even get a seat in the buffet if you are brave enough to try the food. Their only saving grace was their fresh baked goods. We lived on sugar for most of the week. They had great cookies, cakes, cobblers, ice cream, and crepes. If they could get their bakers to cook- the food would have a shot!! We were so disgusted with all of this, that we went to reception and told them we were planning to get off at the first port (Florida) and stay there and get a hotel and pay to fly back. The lovely people at reception smiled and asked me if I knew about the "Jones Act". Its some act from like 1916 where the ship has to bring everyone back from the port they took them from. Otherwise they get a heavy penalty that they happily pass down to you- $350 pp!!! I was fit to be tied!! We paid all the money to book the cruise (which NCL or Travelocity wouldn't refund if we got off), and then would've had had to ADD money to leave!! UNREAL!! We decided to stay and get the cruise over with and make the best of it.
Then there is the "entertainment". They have 2 clubs on board the ship- "Bliss" and the "Spinnaker". Bliss is clubby and has the lights and the whole thing but NEVER a DJ. They had an awesome DJ onboard, but they never let him work in the clubs at night. They would waste him during the DAY to play out by the pool (where it was always too cold to swim). Out by the pool you couldn't even dance- they had to do stupid line dances and electric slide like you were at someone's Sweet 16! In Bliss, they have 10 TVs around the room playing "Time Life" videos from 1990 that you're supposed to get up and dance to. NO ONE dances there. In the Spinnaker, they have hokey game shows (newlywed game) and Karaoke, so the guests have to entertain each other, rather than NCL hiring talent. Then there is a theater where they have the "Norwegian Gem dancers" put on shows. Who cares?? I'm in my mid 30's! How about a comedian? They had one comedian but he was pitiful. Nobody laughed at him at all. A cover band? They had a band called Kinnosis that played very rarely and played very outdated material. A real DJ? A Broadway play? Something!? It s like a trip for the over 65 crowd. Everyone was older than us. There was under 10 couples near our age without kids. We' d run into them walking around the ship at night- all looking for something to do. If they could run the club right, it would've been fun. We could have bought a lot of drinks and danced. They're always trying to push you to buy drinks- but I think if they had the right entertainment, you'd want to drink and buy em. We never wanted to stay anywhere for more than 1 drink- so we may have had 4 or 5 drinks the whole trip. We were never even buzzed. Sad.
The excursions...They don't tell you where you need to be, what time- what gangway to take. They also don;'t tell you that some ports don't even take cash and you need to bring your debit card. You also need to bring photo id AND your ship card to get on and off the ship at the ports. I found the excursions very disorganized. Our first excursion was Port Canaveral, Florida. You had the choice of a resort for the day with full run of it, Disney. Universal, etc. We chose the resort because you ll never have enough time at Disney/Universal. On the NCL site, they tell you they are in port from 9am-8pm or so, so you think you have all day at the port. Not so. By the time you get off the ship and to the port, its 10, 11 am and then they tell you, you have to be back on the ship at 5:30pm! The ship doesn't even leave port till 9:30pm! What the hell? Our "resort" in Port Canaveral was a joke. The ocean was rough and too cold to swim. The jacuzzi didn't work, and half the food places near the pool were closed because its off season. The heated pool was fine, but we could've stayed on board for that... The second port- Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas was great. We snorkeled for the first time and loved it. That port is NCL's private island. They brought all the gross cruise food to the island and made it there and served drinks. It was a nice day off the ship, but still the bad food followed us. Then Atlantis, Paradise Island on day 3. It was gorgeous, but over priced and over rated. I was disappointed. The way the commercials look on TV- you think the whole place is amazing with a million things to do. They had about 10 pools, 4 Jacuzzis, 6 water slides, an awesome aquarium, a real expensive mall you cant afford to shop in, and the beach. It was a lot to do- but not for more than a day. We were toying of the idea of booking a week there- which is close to $3,500- and I'm glad we didn't do that trip. We did Atlantis in 1 day. The food there was atrocious also and for half the afternoon, it rained. It may just be that NCL is a crappy cruise line, but I'm not willing to try it again. I am an officially retired cruiser. Looking forward to booking Vegas for June 2011.
There was also a teeny casino onboard that was cute. We paid extra for a spa pass- that was a Godsend. They only sell 85 passes and we were there everyday. They had gorgeous Jacuzzis, steam room, sauna, etc. Super Nice. Def recommend that! It was $99 per person for an unlimited week pass to use the spas amenities. The stateroom was tiny but ok. It was an ocean view. Very nice. Comfy bed. The room was the least of my worries. You also have the mandatory $12 per person per day charge for the room steward and tips for the various bars/restaurants onboard. That's crap. I saw the room steward maybe twice the whole week. He's supposed to clean the room, bring you ice twice a day and turn down the bed at night and leave you towel animals. My room was cleaned daily but I only got it turned down with a towel animal once. Sad. I thought that was a cute touch that they did nightly.
We tried it and that's the bottom line. We ended our "cruise curiosity" and saw Atlantis and we're done with it. We don't have to spend crazy money to stay there now. We're good. We made the best of it. The few good restaurants were very nice. 2 out of 3 excursions were good.
I'm with my family(6 person) were traveling on this cruise for special occasion to celebrate birthday.Since the day of arrival aboard the ship, all of us experienced terrible stomach virus with high fever and so on... When we call for a doctors help
receptionist told us it is charge $150.00..?????
Unfortunately for us every day we started feeling worth. Then on ship was announcement "Quarantine". It mean that most of the passenger got sick.I don't want wright all this situation but after all we try wright letter to NCL company to get back some reimbursement for our cruise.They send us letter that they are unable to offer any compensation in this regard and they understand that illness overshadowed the overall enjoyment of our cruise.It was the last drop of this stupidity. All of us our family and friends will never ever go with this cruise line because of such attention to people on board.