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Howard Bresin

Age: 59


Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Gem

Sailing Date: 12-27-2008

Itinerary: Bahamas

While not the most enjoyable cruise we've taken it was still quite pleasurable. The embarkation from NY ran pretty smooth, it was only at the disembarkation that things fell apart. NCL has an anytime departure that is not handled real well onboard, once off ship you must travel down escalator with your luggage. The ship is exceptionally clean and this crew was the nicest, and most courteous of any cruise line we've experienced. The overall layout of the ship made it feel somewhat confining, no central atrium with large open areas, and dead end passageways. The decor was upbeat, with bright colors, no heavy woods and plenty of exterior views. This was our first Freestyle experience and I will say it does work out better for small families or couples as far as the dining is concerned. While NCL may not have the same measure of food quality, staterooms, public rooms and ambiance as other lines we have cruised, we still booked our next cruise to Hawaii with them. Overall food quality was a disappointment. The buffet in the Garden Cafe has a hard time keeping food hot. and the overall seating layout is not good. Food choices though are good, and the salad bar was the best as long as you like italian dressing. We ate twice at the Magenta, its Ok but nothing that's going to excite your palate. What we thought would be interesting were the specialty restaurants. The Italian restaurant started out with alot of promise and then went downhill. The antipasto they bring out on a cart was great, the entrees less so, though my osso bucco was done nicely. Cagneys their steakhouse also proved to be a disappointment, the meat was less than prime and accompaniments decidedly bland and undercooked. The gem of the GEM was le Bistro the French restaurant where the steak was better than Cagneys, the ambiance more romantic, and the service superb. It will also cost you less than Cagneys. There was usually a buffet on the pool deck, but we never ate from there, we did not eat at any small cafes. The staterooms were clean with the exception of the sperry docksiders I found under one of the beds. I don't know how long they were there but they didn't move when I left the ship. Seems to be less room than other ships, we had an outside balcony and inside stateroom. Bathrooms had a generous amount of space. Beware of the soaps and shampoo they place in dispensers, I developed a rash from them. The most disturbing thing about the staterooms was noise. The balcony room outside doors rattled terribly in winds and high seas. Engineering was called and we were told it could not be fixed. Other people had similar complaints. The inside stateroom sounded like luggage or furniture was rolling around overhead. The only other complaint is one of smokers - cruise lines should either ban smoking in cabins or put them all in one section of the ship. The casino was particularly bad with smoke and it was an access area for the theater. There were a number of lectures and demonstrations, none of which we attended. There are bowling alleys in one of the lounges, again we didn't even look at them. The Internet area is small and pricey compared to other lines. There is a library and card room again not as large as other ships, and located out of the way. The entertainment on board was first rate coming out of NY, with very good production numbers, and the small lounges were always busy with late night singers and comedians. Suprisingly lacking was a movie theater that would have helped the two days at sea, when the sun and warmth disappeared. If you enjoy bingo, a cruise is the place to be, and this was the first ship that I didn't use the casino due to the smoke issue. Are excursions on cruise ships expensive? Yes they are, but it is usually your once in a lifetime chance to do or experience something out of the ordinary. Port Canaveral, we already had a year pass to Seaworld so that was a given, we left the transportation to the excursion desk. Great Stirrup Cay was a beach day, but there is parasailing and snorkeling trips. You can snorkel on the beach, we brought our own gear or rent equipment. NOTE- If you have a small digital camera buy a DICAPAC, they are about $25 and work great when snorkeling or protecting your camera at the beach, rain. any bad elements. Nassau - we were going to go to Stingray City but decided to go to the Dolphin Encounters on Blue Lagoon Island. Go in the morning and you can stay all day until the last ferry back to the ship. The facility there is what great Stirrup Cay should look like, with a beautiful protected lagoon, restrooms, and food. Then of course there are the dolphins, and sealions. Say hello to Renaldo for us. Port Lucaya- The marketplace was deserted it was a Holiday (Jan 1) Beautiful beach though. Overall this trip was a good getaway from the frozen Northeast. Passengers were predominantly from the city and suburbs, with a good number of Europeans traveling during the Holidays. Mostly families, with plenty of kids who also seemed to be enjoying the cruise. The ship was very stable even in 11 foot seas, with no noticeable roll and only slight pitch. We actually purchased prints, at the art auctions. It was our souvenir from the cruise. I think NCL has a pretty good concept going with the Freestyle cruising, if they can get their act together on tendering issues, smoking issues, food quality, ship and stateroom design, and other aspects of passenger management they very well could become an everymans premium line.

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