I've been on the Jewel once and the Pearl 3 times and going to Alaska in May on her again....they are just about the same as the Gem...Wonderful ships...very sleek looking and a great ride. You will find the food in the free restaurants to be good to great. I really never do the pay extra because I find the main dining room to be very satifactory...but that is a personal preference.....There will be many things to do depending how much you want to get into the ship things.....We've cruised with NCL many times out of your 24 cruises, and found NCL to be a REAL value.....Some people have bad things to say about NCL, but some people are harder to please than others....Just go with a mindset that you won't be at home, someone will clean your room, and fix your food....can't get much better than that....Happy Cruising...
Michelle... The NCL Gem is a truly great ship with a matching crew, We have sailed on her twice with a third coming up next year. She enjoys a wonderful ambiance and is a ship that will enchant and entrance you. Cruising NCL is a trmendous value .....You will be pleased with both the ship and NCL!!!
The Gem was my first NCL ship, and we've now done four NCL cruises in a row and are considering a fifth. We really didn't know if we'd like the Freestyle environment because we'd gotten used to the "regular" style, but it turns out, we love it. Honestly, we've found sometimes the service in the dining rooms isn't -quite- as good as on other lines because you don't have the same server every time, so you don't build a rapport with him/her. And some people feel nickeled and dimed because there are so many options that cost extra, like the specialty restaurants. But I love that the option is there. Because you can get great food in the dining room and not spend a penny extra if you choose. Or, if you go for something different, you can go to the specialty restaurants. We love the ships (Dawn and Gem have been our favorites) and the decor and the layouts. NCL is awesome and I would recommend this ship in a heartbeat. If you'd like to see any pics or anything from Gem, just let me know!
Booked on Carnival Freedom, Feb. 2012 (Cozumel, Costa Rica, Panama)
NCL Gem, Sept. 2011
NCL Jewel, Feb. 2011
NCL Dawn, Sept. 2010
NCL Spirit, Feb. 2010
NCL Gem, March 2009
RCCL Explorer of the Seas, Feb. 2008
Carnival Miracle, May 2007
Carnival Conquest, April 2006
Caribbean Princess, Feb. 2005
Hi Michelle. Welcome to cruisereviews, and congratulations on booking your first NCL cruise.
As the others have stated, you'll have a choice of various restaurants while onboard, and no set dining time. As Cortney said, you don't need to pay for dining unless you want to. On our most recent NCL cruise, which was 7 nights long, we dined in the (free) main dining room three times, the buffet once, the (free) 24-hour comfort food restaurant once, one night in the ($10 per person) Italian restaurant, and one night in the ($15 per person) Asian Fusion restaurant.
I do suggest that you make reservations. Depending upon your cabin type, this can be done 24 to 48 hours in advance. (Even more time if you're in a suite.) The Teppanyaki Room fills up quickly... that was the only restaurant on our cruise that was regularly filled to capacity. There will also be monitors throughout the public areas of the ship indicating how busy the various restaurants are, and how busy they expect to be the entire evening based on previously-made reservations.
This is not to say it's perfect, yet we enjoyed it... and I am a traditionalist when it comes to cruising!
My wife and I went on our Honeymoon Cruise this past November on the Norwegian Gem. This was our first crusing experience.
The Gem is a beautiful ship. We had a balcony room, which was nice. You really aren't in the room very often, so if you are looking to save money, thats where I would start.
Here are a few tips about saving some $$$:
*Everyday, there is a different specialty drink offered. The drinks are served in a souviner cup. You can save $2.00 per drink if you ask them to bring it to you in a glass, rather than the souviner cup. This is true for all drinks, not just the special of the day. We ended up with over a dozen souviner cups which we just threw away, and cost us an extra $2.00 per drink.
*Dont buy into the "free soda package". It costs about $7.00 a day and we hardly used it. They give you a reusable insulated cup to carry around with you and it got annoying. The waiters in the restaurants wont ask you if you want soda either..they just bring out water. You have to innitiate. By the way...iced tea, water coffee and tea are free in the restaurants.
*There are photographers EVERYWHERE....you will have your pictures taken a zillion times, and then be offered to buy them in the photo gallery. Very pricey.
*The free restaurants are really good, especially Magenta. You can grab a fantastic French meal at Le Bistro, and it's well worth the $15 or $20 a head to dine there. Especially the dessert. We did not feel the Italian/Chinese/ or Mexican specialty restaurants were worth the additional fee. The Blue Lagoon is open 24 hrs, but the food is not very good, and less than fast-food quality. I guess you cant go wrong with the wings or panini snadwich, but nothing else was decent.
*With all the restaurants, you can order as much as you want from the menus.
Dont be shy to order 2 or 3 different appetizers each, so you can both sample and share. The same is true for the main courses and desserts.
*If you are porting and going on an excursion, get in line at least 1 hour before....the lines were ridiculous and frustration to leave the ship in ports of call. Also, get in line extremely early for the Chocolate Buffett....trust me!
Hope this helps..let me know if I can be further assistance.
Last edited by mrwilliamt; 03-11-2011 at 10:22 AM.