August 2015 - Norwegian Gem to Caribbean - Bahamas
This was our first time on NCL previously we have done 2 cruises on Princess, 2 Celebrity and 2 Royal Caribbean. My review:
Food/Drinks: Very good. In my opinion slightly better than Princess and Royal Caribbean. Cagneys was very good. We ate there twice.
Itinerary: Good, no better no worse than other cruises I've taken to Bahamas. Great Stirrup Cay is not a very nice island. It’s basically a rock/sandbar. Coco Cay (the Royal Caribbean private island) next to great stirrup cay is much nicer (greener) and much better snorkeling. $35 to rent a covered chair on Stirrup Cay is too much. Also the bar at Stirrup cay at 3pm had a long line at bar with three guys behind the bar; two cleaning down bottles and only one tending bar. Had to wait 10 minutes on line to get two sodas. The day in Stirrup Cay would have been a total bust but what saved the day was the Stingray tour. That was a great tour! Also the tender service here is bad. Having to get a ticket on the pool deck then wait for your number to be called was bad experience that I didn’t have on other cruise lines.
Cabins were fine. Cabin steward was friendly and kept us full with clean towels and place was cleaned nicely daily with turn down service as well. Size was decent and beds comfortable. Slightly smaller than Princess but slightly bigger than Royal Caribbean. We had a window but no balcony.
Ship overall: was nice. Lots of things to do. Pools could have been bigger or more of them (only 2 and they were not big enough for 2900 guests on board) A big downer is they closed the pools with netting every night at 11-11:30pm. All other cruises I've been on I've enjoyed a late night dip in the pool at 12-1am! Also no band or DJ playing when we left our last port of call? All my other cruises we had a party atmosphere when you leave a port...especially the last port. With the NCL Gem we just pulled out of port and left. No announcement or anything leaving our last port for home.
Service: This is probably the one and only reason I would choose Royal Caribbean, Celebrity or Princess over NCL when I book a future cruise. While I did like the "Freestyle" experience NCL offers, the service was way and I mean way below the other cruise lines I've been on. Service was fine in the restaurants at dinner and in the cabins, but at all the bars inside and outside the service was bad. On our first day out at sea I went to the bar for a drink in the early afternoon day when I got to the bar I was told by the bartender to "get on the back of the line" I do not want to wait on a 10-12 people long to get my drink order in on a cruise. This was the norm for seven days at the bars and Java cafe. There were some very good bartenders on this ship and others that moved at a snail’s pace. What was annoying was that they'd have two bartenders working at the pool bar if no one was on the pool deck, same as if 1000 people were on the pool deck. Clearly not enough bartenders on this boat. Also the whole process of using your cruise card to pay on NCL is horrible. The bartenders have to assemble this book of two copies of receipts, one for you and one for them, they put it into a paper folder and give to you to sign and return one copy. This gums up the whole process of having a moving bar especially on a busy crowded thirsty pool deck. Royal Caribbean, Princess and Celebritry all had a much better system of using cruise card to pay over NCL. I’ve never encountered waits like this on a cruise.
In the end I enjoyed my cruise but NCL just didn’t do things in my mind as well as other lines I've been on. Food was great, service not so great and the wait to get a soda, drink or coffee is the reason I'd choose another cruise line in the future.