Monday, April 07, 2008

Norwegian Gem Cruise Ship Review

Recently, my husband and I took a 7 night cruise aboard the Norwegian Gem. It was not our first cruise, but our first out of New York and we’re from New York. The embarkation at the Port of New York was outstanding. We arrived at 12:30pm and boarded the ship by 1:15. We take at least two family vacations a year and I believe that set a record for us, from “curbside” to “on vacation.”

As we stepped on board the ship, we were immediately greeted with smile and a glass of champagne. The staff at the Orchid Garden was offering tastings from the Asian menu, so we stayed and sampled. When we inquired about reservations at the specialty restaurants, they immediately offered to set us up with our first and second night’s dinner reservations. We decided to start with Teppanyaki and try Cagney’s Steakhouse Sunday night. Teppanyaki was a “party” with great food and friends. Steak, chicken, lobster, and shrimp in any combination you choose. Sunday evening at Cagney’s, everything on the menu was “prime steakhouse venue” and do not miss the Bananas Foster FlambĂ©.

We had high expectations knowing the ship was new, but we were still pleasantly surprised at all the little extras. Our oceanview room was clean, with more than enough storage space. We had a flat screen television, coffee maker and a small refrigerator. Our cabin steward was so friendly and accommodating I often felt as though we had our own butler and even though we did not take our daughters on this trip, he pleasantly surprised us with his towel animals each night. I hesitate to admit we even attended the towel folding class on the last day at sea in an attempt to master the craft (with no success).

The pool area is split with an adult only pool and two hot tubs on one side and a family pool with slide and two hot tubs on the other side. Both pools are surrounded by thick cushioned lounge chairs. Let me say, leaving from New York in 40 degree weather does not slow the “Sail away Party” down in any respect. The hot tubs were full and the reggae band was playing. There was also another party going on in the Spinnaker Lounge, an ultra modern lounge, forward on deck 13 with floor to ceiling windows from one side of the room to the other. The view of the Statue of Liberty or passing under the Verrazano Bridge was breathtaking from either location.

We spent most mornings dining at the Great Outdoors buffet for breakfast. All stations were cooked to order and cappuccino machines each morning were a delicious treat. There was also a hostess station for dinner reservations at the entrance and we easily made reservations daily in many of the specialty restaurants. Tequila for tex-mex, La Cucina for Italian and Orchid Garden for Asian. Blue Lagoon is great for a light lunch or late night snack. The buffalo wings and chili were great.

We also discovered queen sized, circular, cushioned lounge chairs one deck above the pool. “Wow”, you say, but so far away from the pool. Not to worry. The pool staff was so great, they were never far away and they had my drink order down perfect every day. Between noon and 2 pm staffers walked around serving cold refreshing towels in case I was too relaxed to walk the 20 feet to the pool. There were black jack tables around the pool, a different band each day and the Hagan Daaz ice cream cart came around about 1 pm.

We did decide to check out some of the shore excursions on Nassau and our Freestyle Daily said we could check everything out on our television. We were able to see a short preview video describing the different excursions and we even booked one from our room right on the interactive screen. When we returned from lunch our tickets for our excursion had already been delivered. This was a great added convenience from waiting on line at the excursion desk.

The entertainment each night was eclectic, something for everyone. Ross Bennet stand up or Second City comedy skits; Duck Cameron, magician or full on Las Vegas musical revues. We loved every show. We even had fun participating in the afternoon activities when we needed a break from the sun. Adult Wii on the giant two story screen in the main lobby on deck 7 was amazing. We had some of the staff take photos of us “boxing” so the kids would believe us. Bingo, martini tasting, magic workshop with Duck Cameron and Q&A with the Captain were some of the highlights.

We will definitely sail the Norwegian Gem again, next time with family and friends. This is one vacation too good not to share!

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