Cruise Review: Onboard The Norwegian Gem

Norwegian Gem Ship

A few weeks ago, I went on a cruise.

It was my first time on a cruise and like any first time traveler, it was an exciting experience and something I would definitely consider doing again in the future.

This trip wasn’t exactly planned and since a cousin was vacationing from Manila, she wanted to go on a relaxing trip and my aunt suggested that a cruise was the way to go. And so we booked the tickets a few days just before the sailing date.

Though I’m no cruise expert, I’ve jotted down some points that will be helpful for anyone who would want to add cruising in their travel wish list.

Here’s my review:

Destinations

Anna in NCL

The trip that we’ve chosen was a seven day cruise that sailed from New York to Florida and the Bahamas then back.

The ports of call were Port Canaveral, Florida, Great Stiffup Cay (Norwegian Cruise Line private island in the Bahamas) and Nassau Bahamas.

In the US, majority of the cruises sail from Miami or Fort Lauderdale area in Florida going to the Caribbean and South America. But there are also cruises coming from New York City, and this was one of the them.

Who is this for

Cruise view

Since we didn’t have much time for trip planning, we selected this cruise. It’s a long journey from New York and so for four days we were just sailing at sea. Depending on the type of travel that you prefer, I would say that this is a VERY relaxing trip.

Vacationers, families with young children, couples, people traveling with friends and love to party, seniors or people who just want to eat and relax, cruising is for you.

The Best Time to Book

We booked the cruise just a few days before the ship sailed and I believe that this is the best time to book for a cruise. Simply because most of the cruise prices go down before the sailing dates.

It just makes a lot of sense since the ship is huge and this particular type of ship can fit more than 2000 guests. I’m guessing that for some itineraries such as this one, ships are not in full occupancy so they drop the prices just to fill the extra spaces prior sailing.

Visas

For non-US citizens, depending on your nationality, a visa is required for going on this cruise to Bahamas and one would need a multiple entry visa too back to the US. The Bahamian visa can be easily obtained through the Bahamian embassy in New York City.

Stateroom/Cabin

There are different kinds of staterooms to choose from: inside, ocean view, balcony, mini suite, suite and the Haven (penthouse suite).

suite collage

Inside our mini suite

For this trip so we chose the mini suite with balcony stateroom and we LOVED it! The room can fit four people and so the room was spacious enough for the three of us. The size was perfect, the bathroom was very clean, has a separate shower and it was just the right size. The curtains are dark enough to not let the sun in in the morning and we have a dividing curtain that made the room look like it had an extra room. There were also plenty of closet space and having a balcony, though not necessary is highly recommended.

Depending on your stateroom category and when and where you book your trip, an interior room can cost as low as $299 for a week’s trip. We paid about $2100 for our trip so it comes out to $100 per person per day. It can be quite a deal considering everything is included in the cost. Minus your tips and shore excursions. There’s also a steward/ess to clean your room every day. Think hotel but only it’s in a ship.

Staff

Breakfast on cruise

We REALLY enjoyed our stay on the ship, mostly because of the wonderful staff.

Majority (80%) of the cruise staff are from the Philippines. Meaning, the people who served our food, cleaned our rooms, took care of our room services etc. were Filipinos. One can easily see from their badges the flag and country where they’re from.

I’m so happy to have met such friendly faces from back home and so proud of these hardworking people, working every single day to make vacationers feel the best experiences a cruise has to offer. There were very few Filipinos traveling on that trip so most of the staff members know us by name by the second day of our trip. They constantly put a smile on our faces during the trip.

Food and Dining

Restaurant at NCL Gem

The ship has plenty of places to eat from and are operating almost 24 hours. There are six complimentary dining options and you can choose whether you want a buffet or a la carte type of meal. Or you can also choose to dine at ten other specialty restaurants and pay an extra charge.

Though the food here didn’t have the wow factor, I particularly enjoyed the breakfast at Blue Lagoon, the salad bar and desserts at Garden Cafe and sit down dinner with panoramic views of the sea at Grand Pacific .

Chocoholic Buffet

One thing that I highly recommend are the desserts. One of the things that I cut down dramatically this year was my sugar intake and I’m so glad that they offer sugar free desserts. They’re great and most of the desserts aren’t too sweet as well. I was also so excited to find out that they had a chocoholic buffet and went there too. I had a taste of the chocolate covered strawberries and they were heavenly!

Activities and Amenities

There are plenty of things to do inside the ship: from swimming, to getting massages at the spa, jogging, rock climbing, exercising at the fitness center, shopping, reading at the library, or maybe dancing at night, there’s something to do for every type of traveler on board.

Here are some of the shots from the ship:

Cruise at night

Pool and recreational area

Bars

Bar

Cruise Theater

Theatre

Shore Excursions

What I didn’t like: Port Canaveral

Port Canaveral Sunset

For this itinerary, the first port of call was Port Canaveral, Florida.

This part of Florida is closer to Disney World in Orlando. We have all been to Disney World in the past so we skipped it and explored downtown Port Canaveral.

Dear travelers, there is nothing to do in Port Canaveral so you can skip it. So for anyone who will pass through this port, you may want to visit Disney World instead

Hmmmm Meh: Great Stirrup Cay

Great Stirrup Cay

The second port of call was Norwegian cruise line’s private island in Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. Though it was a pretty nice beach, I think I’ve been spoiled with the beaches in Southeast Asia and found this one as an average kind of beach.

What I loved: Nassau, Bahamas

Paradise Island View

It was a short sail from Great Stirrup Cay to Nassau so we arrived at night and woke up to this view of Paradise Island. It was gorgeous!

We decided to opt out the cruise shore excursion and ventured out on our own. Downtown Nassau is a place for shoppers. It’s also a great place to buy your souvenir or gifts.

I wasn’t really interested in shopping so I walked around town, talked to the locals and hired us a driver to take us around the island. After negotiation, the driver agreed to drive us for $25 for two hours showing us historical places on the island. It wasn’t bad and it’s a great way to have a private tour of the island.

Anna in Paradise Island

The trip to Bahamas was short and sweet. I’m pretty sure that there are fantastic beach spots in Bahamas that we weren’t able to go to since we’re only given a day on this port. I particularly loved paradise island and its beaches.

Other things to consider

Motion sickness: I was dizzy during the first few hours of the cruise. If you’re unsure bring medications or take a shorter trip.

Wifi: Also note that wifi onboard is crazy expensive- about $55 for 30 minutes. This is great for vacationers to be forced to disconnect.

Other health concerns: I suffered a skin allergy on my second to the last day of cruising when I sat on one of the public sofas at the sundeck. I have never in my years of travels got any kind of allergy like that and it was terrible. Thankfully it only lasted for a few days. My suggestion is to be careful of where you’re sitting down in public places and bring an anti-itch lotion.

Conclusion

Since this is my first time cruising, I’d say it’s been a good experience and something I’d consider doing again in the future. There are however a few things I would consider the next time.

This trip wasn’t exactly the type of trip for adventurer spirits like myself. I would rather do a cruise that have a lot more port stops to explore more islands like in the Caribbean, Hawaii or a trip like Alaska. Nonetheless, I still had a great time.

If you’re the type who would love not to do anything and simply relax, eat and chill this will be perfect for you. I highly recommend it.

Have you been on a cruise? What was your experience like?

-Anna

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Author:Anna

Globetrotter

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