Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by bruceharper
- Sail Date: October 2018
- Destination: Canada & New England
- Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Balcony
I tagged this "Random" because of a number of things -- the random selection of when movies and TV shows were shown on the cabin TV, the random choices of meals in the Grand Pacific, the random choices of themes in the Garden Cafe, and the random times that there was a 30-minute wait for seating in both dining rooms.
I also added the "Sailing with the B Team" subtitle since the service, meals, and offerings weren't up to what we have seen before on our past cruises.
Breakfast was fine since it is hard to screw up eggs, omelets, etc. on the buffet or in the dining room. The issue of service and food came up with dinner in the Grand Pacific. The standard choices were the standard choices that are on just about every Norwegian menu (steak, flounder, chicken, pork, and pasta). The daily variable menu choices on a couple of days weren't outstanding or exciting, leading my wife and I to comment, "Well, we can find something to eat, even if it is just appetizers." The option was to find nothing we liked on the themed buffet. Both my wife and I were disappointed several times, me with a steak without much flavor and her with the veal that also had no flavor. At one meal at a shared table (which we enjoyed) several appetizers were served cold (especially the spinach dip that should have been hot). Some special requests for the entree didn't get communicated well so substitutions for vegetables or other sides didn't show up. Most of the table asked for coffee with desert but it took action by the maiter de to get the coffee served -- after everyone had finished their desert. The service just wasn't there at times.
Outside of the dining room, the singing entertainment seemed to be made up of lower-level performers. A number of people we talked to mentioned the atrium piano player who couldn't sing. We briefly listened to another group and didn't seek them out again. This was disappointing because we enjoyed listening to good performers in the evening in the atrium on other cruises. Other activities that were available seemed limited and didn't really appeal to us. Deal or No Deal is fun to watch the first time but is more of a racket at $25 a card to play with limited rewards.
Another failure (and a Norwegian trait on other cruises) is the control of guests when there is a need to appear/line up for something. When we arrived in Bar Harbor everyone had to line up for the immigration officers. There were set times for different groups and decks to show up but there wasn't any type of check to see if someone was in the appropriate group, which meant anyone could show up at any time. This has happened on past cruises, too, which makes for longer lines filled with people who aren't supposed to be there. The staff never enforces who or when someone should or shouldn't be there. The same went for lining up for the tender trips in Bar Harbor and Newport. People grabbed early tickets (1, 3, 5, etc.) but didn't show up until they were calling 12, 14, 17 ticket numbers late in the morning. The feeling among those who were bumped by these late arrivals was that if you didn't make it when your number was called, you went to the end of the line.
The ultimate failure of this was at the end of the trip in New York. Because of problems at the dock (not of Norwegian's making) everything was an hour late. When they finally started calling for the self-supporting people to disembark, there was a rush for the exits. At one point there was an announcement that if you were in a color group and your luggage wasn't available, you would be sent back (don't know if that was enforced). We ended up joining the "shuttle" group ahead of our color group because we needed to get to Penn Station in time to catch our train home (yes, we did what we complain about by jumping the line but the delay shortened what had been a comfortable window of time).
Bottom line as far as the ship goes is that is was a nice cruise despite the little things and we are still keeping our reservations for a future cruise on Norwegian.
As to the ports and excursions, we were very pleased -- although the excursion selection was tough to work through to balance interest and cost.
In Halifax we chose the Hop On-Hop Off bus excursion. We got a good overview of the city and had an excellent guide for the first section who was knowledgeable and provided good commentary. We hopped off downtown to walk around and have lunch (and had a wonderful meal at Stayner's Wharf). The return to the ship also had an excellent guide; kudos to the company for their selection and training of their guides.
We did a walking food tour in St. John and again had an excellent guide. We started with a beaver tail (a "Canadian donut") then cruised the City Market where we were given samples of Dulce, maple butter, candied and smoked salmon, a lobster roll, and a wonderful lobster tail pastry. In addition to the food, we learned the history of the city and area, had various architecture features pointed out, and worked in a visit to a restored theatre. When we were done, we had some free time to walk around a bit more.
We booked another foodie tour for Bar Harbor and again the guide was very good (unfortunately my wife didn't make the tour; something from the buffet didn't agree with her and she wasn't up to the walk in the cold). The guide covered the history of the area as we walked to the first stop where we were served a delicious lobster bisque. Next stop was the Independent coffee shop, with a wonderful lobster roll, blueberry coffee cake, and a cold coffee delicacy. We visited the Bar Harbor Popcorn Shop for a tasty snack, then went to the Episcopal Church to view the Tiffany stained glass and hear about the Astors. Last stop was the Acadia Country Store and a slice of blueberry pie.
None of the excursions for Boston appealed to us, so we opted for a Hop On-Hop Off bus tour. The service had a kiosk on the pier and the ticket price was the same as the on-line price so it wasn't a bad deal. The first bus shuttled us from the port to the Quincy Market area and stop 1 on the loop. We walked around Quincy Market and marveled at the variety of food stalls. We then picked up the bus for a 2-hour overview of Boston. Sully was an entertaining and knowlegeable driver/guide who provided a lot of background information. It was a quick overview that convinced us we need to return to Boston for an extended visit. A late lunch at the Quincy Market compled the day, followed by a down-to-the-wire return to the ship right at 3:30 (although we didn't leave until after 5 p.m.).
Newport was a surprise -- we didn't pick from the limited list of excursions but didn't know what to expect. After a wait for a tender, we started a walk around the downtown, which turned out to be a nice place to visit and shop. On recommendation from a shop clerk, we made our way to The Mooring restaurant for lunch -- one of the best meals of the trip. We walked off lunch going back to the landing, where we had a bit of a wait for a tender.
Bottom line for this is we accomplished our goal for this cruise -- to visit some places we haven't been to before. As mentioned, a road trip is in our future to return to this region for an extended visit now that our appetite has been wheted by this trip.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
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View Cruise Critic's Newport Cruise Port Review
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