December 2013 - Norwegian Gem to Caribbean - Eastern
Since there is no rating between "Poor experience - 2 stars" and "Fine experiernce - 3 stars", I would have to round down to the 2 star level. In my mind, the overall rating of the cruise is "Fair". I also want to provide some background of myself before going into my review of this cruise.
Occassion: Honeymoon. This is the first cruise for both my husband and I. Both of us in early 30s. No children. Stayed in Balcony room midship port side. We reside in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.
ROOM: We like our Balcony room as it provides more space for us to move around and enjoy the sea breeze when I was seasick. However, we were not happy with the upkeep / cleanliness of our room. I noticed that the carpet are not vacuumed and even though we put the sign of "turn down cabin". The food scraps that we dropped stayed in the cabin after 2 days, before I had to go pick them up and started wearing flipflops in our room for the rest of the trip. Sometimes our steward would miss replenishing towels and glasses for us and we had to ask him.
EMBARKATION AND DISEMBARAKATION: The process is not rocket science and it was not super enjoyable either, but I think there isn't anything you can do with it. Just have to be patient and be prepared. Information flow was good as the procedure was announced over the PA system for a few times.
FOOD: We tried all the dining rooms, buffets, outdoor grill, and all specialty restaurants except Teppenyaki. Not sure whether we are spoilied by good food in the SF Bay Area or the food quality really sucks, we only enjoyed 1-2 meals that we had from two specialty restaurants. The rest of food quality either sucks real time or portion size is ridiculous. We feel that some of the restaurants are mislabled as "fine dining" when you could not see the attention to detail or the quality fo the food doesn't match up the cover charge. We received very poor service at restaurants except at La Cucina and at the Brazillian steakhouse, where our servers were fantastic (and we tipped them extra too afterwards). They don't have enough servers or cooks so food wait time can be from 30 minutes (at Cagney's) or 40 minutes (at Sushi Bar) or 60 minutes (Orchid Garden). They have to really work better at the food quality and portion and serve time, because this is a real problem that we feel we have better food at the Grille (just grilled hotdogs and hamburgers) than at the dining room or at specialty restaurants.
SERVICE: I am just going to say "service" in general, but leaning toward more about restaurant service and room service. Bar services were good, as they charge extra gratuity. Other services are poor and the biggest problem is communication. We noticed the people who served us, 85% are Phillipinos (we noticed their name tags of where they come from) and we had a very hard time having them understand what we need (in terms of food, drinks, service, etc.) Please note that we have no problems communicating with Europeans or any other Americans who are Caucasians, or even Indonesians or Southern Americans. The language issue is extremely bothersome when we are ordering in a restaurant because sometimes you have to repeat what you want for 2-3 times before the server takes note down of what you want. Norweigian, please, please, please! Could you screen your service staffs to ensure they have great communication skills before you hire them please?
Our first cruising experience in our lives didn't end up very pleasant, but we did enjoy the ports of call that the ship took us to. The cruise director Matt is super funny, also his assistant director Dan Dan is hilarious! We enjoyed the entertainment and shows that was offered on the ship, and most of all we enjoyed the avaialbility of Christmas Eve Midnight Mass.
If we are to cruise the Eastern Caribbean again, we will be trying a different cruise line next time. Afterall, food is very important especially you have to eat from the ship's restaurants for 9 days.