NCL has to review its business and service paradigm. I will not return until it does.

Norwegian Gem Cruise Review to Panama Canal, Central America

Cruises: 4-6 cruises
Review: 1
Helpful Votes: 29

Overall rating:

3.3 out of 5
Verified Review
Norwegian Gem

18 Night Panama Canal Westbound (New York To Los Angeles)

Sail date: January 02, 2019

Ship: Norwegian Gem

Cabin type: Balcony

Traveled as: Couple

Reviewed: 2 years ago

Review summary

So would I cruise again with NCL? The answer is no and here are the reasons why: 1. Food. It wasn't good. As described, it had no taste. The menu resembled a Denny's menu. Quality of the food wasn't good. The red meat was unchewable. Waffles were like cardboard. Quantity and variety was good but what good is that if there's no taste? 2. Shipboard officers. They were a sullen and unfriendly group..I'm talking about the line officers who steer the ship. The captain was remote and unseen. He made daily 10AM announcements that amounted to nothing. What he said was found on the shipboard TV screens, e.g. course, speed, water temp, etc. The guy should have been up and around every once in a while for the passengers to see and he wasn't. Unlike other ships when the captain addresses the passengers in the theater, this guy didn't do that. In short, he was a ghost. The other officers were not much better. The hotel service officers ran the gamut from friendly and helpful to seemingly harried and overburdened. You never knew what you would get when you asked one a question. In one instance, I couldn't chew the meat served to me. When I alerted one of the hotel service officers in the dining room and I told him, "I can't chew the meat." His response was, "Well, did it taste good?" Are you kidding me? Did it taste good? I couldn't chew it. 3. Excursions. Be careful when you book an excursion. Read every description even if you don't plan on going on a specific tour. Why? Because there are tidbits of valid and important info strewed throughout. Example: as described, the length of the bus rides to a specific town might be found in one description but not the one you might be interested in. One description talked about the beautiful sunsets from a town but we left at 3:00 in the afternoon so there would be no sunset. 4. The excursion desk was not a great help. When we had a 90 minute bus ride to Leon, Nicaragua, I complained that we weren't aware of the length of time in transit to which the desk rep told me, and I quote, "Everyone knows that Leon is a 90 minute bus ride." I asked who everyone is to which she said, "you need to research your tours," to which I said, I did by reading your description of the tour...and that's why you need to read all descriptions because in one solitary one, you'll find that the bus ride to Leon is 90 mins long...but that warning wasn't in the description of the trip we took. 5. Rather than having Curacao and Manzanillo on the schedule, replace them both with a stay in Panama City and lengthen the time Costa Rica 5. Finally, I don't want to say that everything on the cruise was bad. There were a lot of good things but when I totaled the good and bad, the overall score was bad and that's why I wouldn't return to NCL. For the cost, I fully expected better quality in all facets of the experience. I really think that NCL has to revisit its business and hotel service paradigm, make some major adjustments and retrain its people.


4 out of 5
Embarkation went smoothly. There was little wait and the ship held to its schedule both in terms of getting people on board and settled and departure from NYC

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

2 out of 5
I can't say the food was terrible because it wasn't, but it wasn't good either. Just about everything was tasteless. Red meat was unchewable. The Indian dishes were, however, excellent and good thing because of the lack of taste in everything else. The menu, even with its fancy names, was reminiscent of a Denny's. Appearance and variety of food was good and there was plenty of it. It's just that there was no tastes, zing, or whatever you want to call it. I'd rate the food aboard the Gem as the far worst I've ever experienced in the cruises I've had to date

Onboard Activities

3 out of 5
the Onboard activities were good and offered variety


5 out of 5
The NCL Gem had, undoubtedly, the best entertainment I've ever experienced on any cruise ship. The acts spanned a variety of genres. The acrobats, Revo, were fabulous and the house was packed was packed when they played. The comedian, was hilarious, Magician was "magical" and had the house spellbound. The other acts were Vegas quality.

Children's Programs

no kids aboard

Service and Staff

2 out of 5
Either the staff was either friendly or sullen and glum. There was no in between. Few, if any, wished guests good morning/evening/afternoon. There was no attempt by the staff to speak with guests. They did their job effectively but the element of personal service and interaction was somehow missing from most of the NCL people

Ship Quality

5 out of 5
The ship was beautiful and clean as a whistle.

Cabin / Stateroom

4 out of 5
Was very satisfied with the cabin. The steward kept it immaculate. The creature comforts were good. The bed mattress, however, was just about at the end of its lifespan and needed replacement but it was, though, adequate.

Ship tip

Be wary. The service is adequate and not great. Food was disappointing and not what you'd expect from a top notch cruise company.

Ports of call

Willemstad, Curacao

1 out of 5
we arrived in Willemstad on a Sunday and everything was closed. There was no access to the museums, government quarters, the fort...nothing. It waste of time and of concern is the NCL knew that the port would offer little and still scheduled it. Perhaps Puerto Rico should have been substituted or new ports such as Panama City, Panama. A two day stay in Costa Rica would have been good

Oranjestad, Aruba

2 out of 5
We did not take an excursion in Aruba but should have. The downtown area is filled with shops, especially jewelry shops. If you're into that, you'll love the variety and offerings. Otherwise, it's a big zero

Santa Marta, Colombia

4 out of 5
A very good port to visit. We didn't take a ship tour but did hire an English speaking guide/taxi driver who gave us a great tour, especially of Taganga Beach. There's plenty in Santa Marta and we felt safe and secure the entire time we were there. This is a good port.

Cartagena, Colombia

5 out of 5
Cartagena was a major surprise. In a word, I'd rate it fabulous. Once again, we hired an English speaking guide who gave us a terrific tour at a very fair price. The guy was a walking encyclopedia of history. He had great language skills and humor. When we finished our taxi tour, we went to the Cathedral in the Old Town and found an English speaking guide who continued our tour. Once again, he was great. Our experience in Cartagena was well worth the time. We found the Colombians friendly, hospitable and curious. In short, I'm ready to go back there for a continuation of our tour and actually, after speaking with Colombians, wouldn't mind going to Bogata and Medellin (yes, that Medellin). We NEVER felt threatened. The streets were welcoming and it was a great experience

Panama Canal Transit

5 out of 5
The ship had a guide on the bridge who gave explanation and history of the Canal. It was a terrific experience and if you've never made the passage, worth the time

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

4 out of 5
The problem with our visit to Costa Rica is that we didn't have enough time. There are a gazillion things to see and being there for only about 8 hours is hardly enough time. It probably would have been a lot better to scratch Curacao and add the day to Costa Rica

Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua

3 out of 5
There is nothing in Puerto Corinto. You have to take an excursion and they all require bus rides to somewhere. Be careful if you pick an shipboard excursion. Check the length of time you'll spend on the bus. If you don't mind the bus ride, you'll probably be ok because the guide will give you excellent explanations of the country, its history and the sights as you pass through the countryside, but if you don't want to sit on a bus, the ride can be tiresome. Note: our shipboard excursion was 7.5 hrs long but we spent 4.5 hrs aboard the bus...way too much time sitting on our butts in a bus.

Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

4 out of 5
a very pleasant experience because we didn't expect our scheduled excursion to be that great. Instead, we had a terrific guide. He had excellent English language skills and was a wealth of knowledge about his country. We visited an old town about 80 minutes from the port (again a long bus ride) but this guy made it worthwhile. I would recommend this port stop again.

Manzanillo, Mexico

1 out of 5
A big zero. Abandon it.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

4 out of 5
A charming visit with a great downtown beachside area full with restaurants, bars, shops great statues and sights along the beachside promenade. It was definitely worth the four hours we spent ashore.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

3 out of 5
Port was ok, i.e. not like Puerto Vallarta. For this port, you definitely need to take an excursion, unless you just want to go ashore, have some coffee or a beer and buy some souvenirs. The only trouble (I use that term loosely) is that the tours center on water sports or boats (which is great if you like that) such as whale watching.


3 out of 5
The disembarkation was ok. There were major pileups at Customs, probably due to the government shut down. The ship did an adequate job of getting people off the ship
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