Food on the Norwegian Gem: My Review

Norwegian Gem Buffet

On my 9-Day cruise on the Norwegian Gem last month, I was able to try a lot of different foods on the Norwegian Gem. I’d even say I ate more meals on the ship than normal, since 4 of the days were at sea – so all of my meals had to be on the ship those days.

I’ll go through all of the restaurants we tried, and what we thought.

I know I mentioned it in the last post, but the buffet was not a fun place to go. I know that the buffet is usually crowded on any ship you’re on, but this was even more so. They seemed to have about half of the seating than any other cruise I’ve been on, including 2 other Norwegian ships.

This means that every meal it was a fight to try to find a table, and it was never easy.

My views of the buffet might be clouded as well, because by the second day of the ship, I guess a certain percentage of people had the Norovirus (or maybe the crew was just scared it was a possibility?) and for the rest of the cruise, we were not allowed to help ourselves to anything at the buffet.

This means everything had to be handed to us…which was a pain, and meant you didn’t always get exactly what you wanted.

But as far as the different types of foods, I would say it was a small-ish selection. Let’s talk about lunch. Every day they had a pasta bar (this is what I ended up with every day), pizza, 2 sandwiches to choose from (which almost always seemed to be tuna), salad, burgers, and one or two Indian and Chinese food dishes.

While it sounds like a lot…since there were only a few choices of each, it didn’t end up being a lot to choose from. I am someone who loves a lot of different foods, and my lunch usually consisted of the pasta bar, along with maybe one or two other items.  I am also a huge salad eater…and on cruises end up having a salad at lunch every day, but there was something about this salad bar that was not appetizing, and therefore only ate salads at dinner.

Breakfast wasn’t any better. While there were a decent amount of choices, the quality just wasn’t very good, and therefore instead of having a nice, big breakfast, I ended up with a small enough breakfast that lunch couldn’t come soon enough.

I tried the pancakes, bagels, potatoes, and more…and just wasn’t excited…so ended up eating cereal for breakfast.   The fruit available daily was good though, so I ended up eating quite a bit of it!

Now onto dinner…

Each day we would look at the menu, and based on that would decide whether to eat in the dining room or at a specialty restaurant. In all of my other cruises, at most I ate at one specialty restaurant that you had to pay for. This time it was 3. I’ll get to that in a little bit though.

Let’s talk about getting seated at one of the two main restaurants.

We usually only had to wait about 10-15 minutes for a table, which isn’t bad. They give you a pager, and if you go up one flight of stairs, there is ample seating to wait, so that was nice.

Let me start with this. The portions were SMALL.

The first night I got a Caesar salad, my husband asked how I liked my 6 leaves of lettuce. It really was that bad.  From then on, I ordered 2 Caesar salads, and even the two together was >almost< a regular portion.

The same went with the main courses as well. They were pretty small, unless you got meat.  The steaks and other beef portions were decent.   Anytime I ordered something with shrimp, I got 3-4 shrimp. One day I thought I was being smart, and asked for a second portion of shrimp…and got a whole 3 extra.

So if you have a decent appetite like I do, I strongly suggest asking for multiple items or multiple portions.

As far as quality? The food was decent. Overall it was ok. A few of the meals were good, but most were just average. The other Norwegian cruises I had been on had much better food, and the Princess cruises also had a lot better food.

Now, let me tell you…I’m really not all that picky when it comes to food. I mean while I love a good meal, I’m happy eating at McDonald’s too. So it’s not that I need top quality to be happy.

But many times we left meals hungry…and in search for more food.

This is what led to going to so many specialty restaurants. When even the list of choices on the menu didn’t look good, we knew we had to try something else.

And that leads me to the other choices for food…

While on the cruise, we were able to try 4 of the alternative dining choices.

  • Blue Lagoon – This restaurant is open 24 hours a day, and doesn’t cost anything extra. We noticed them changing the menu at least once a day.They had a lot of fast food type items, and one evening when hungry soon after finishing dinner, we went to check it out.

    Since it’s open to other levels of the ship, and there was music playing below, it was VERY loud. So loud in fact that we ended up asking for takeout, and bringing the food back to the room.While the food was decent (yes, that’s the best I can say about it), I don’t think I’d ever want to stay and eat there unless it was so late at night that there was no live entertainment below.

  • La Cucina Italian Restaurant – This restaurant was an extra $15 per person, and in my opinion very worth it. The menu had a lot of great choices, and you could choose multiple options if you wanted. In fact, I ordered 2 appetizers, a main dish, as well as asking for part of a second main dish as a side, and then dessert.
    Even though the service was very slow, the food was excellent, and I would have loved to dine there again. I also really enjoyed the look of the restaurant. You really felt like you were in Italy.

    It was by far my favorite meal of the cruise.

  • Moderno Churrascaria – This is the type of restaurant where they bring different meats out to you and keep coming to your table until you tell them to stop. It cost an extra $20 per person, and I guess if they really delivered on the “all you can eat” it would have been worth it.

    Unfortunately, even though we had our card set to “green” so that food would keep coming to our table, no one ever wanted to stop by our table. Many of the servers skipped us entirely, and when they came by to ask if we were ready for dessert (even though are card was still set to green), we still hadn’t been offered all of the entrees once yet.When at that point I asked for a few extra things, I was brought a very small amount of meat – and at that point gave up.

    The food that we did get was very delicious though. So if you can make sure that you get the food you’ve been promised, I do recommend dining here.

    The only negative is that it’s on the opposite side of the ship as the Blue Lagoon – meaning that this restaurant also overlooks live entertaining on a deck below, so it is loud here as well.

  • Teppanyaki – This restaurant was $25 per person extra, and was your usual hibachi restaurant. They had plenty of choices and were very accommodating if you wanted to switch something out with something else, or just add something onto your meal.The food was pretty good, and the entertainment while the chef cooks the meal was a lot of fun as well.I don’t know if I’m just spoiled with a great hibachi restaurant near my house, but my local one was better quality (and less expensive) than Teppanyaki.

    I also didn’t like how they took your picture with the chef, and then just brought out the picture with a bill.It’s one thing if we asked for it…but at that point I was starting to feel nickled and dimed as I didn’t ask for the picture to be taken in the first place.

    I just left the picture on the table when I left though, and therefore didn’t have to pay for it since I didn’t take it. I think if they had put the pictures with the other pictures they take everywhere on the ship, and let you choose to purchase them later in your cruise, that would have been a whole lot nicer.

Now all that’s left is to talk about…

The chocolate buffet.

My first 2 Norwegian cruises had them, and so I was looking forward to this one, since the Princess doesn’t do chocolate buffets.

Now let me explain. I love chocolate. All types of chocolate. I’m just as happy with a Hershey bar as a gourmet bar of chocolate.

This chocolate buffet…well, let’s put it this way.

Here’s the picture of our plates when we started:

Chocolate Buffet - Before

And here’s the picture when we finished eating:

Chocolate Buffet - After

Don’t get me wrong. I hate to waste food…and I had planned on eating all of it. I mean, it looked really good, and the names were really good.

But the food? Horrible. Not just “ok”….if it was ok, I would have still eaten it.

It was bad. The only edible food was the chocolate covered strawberries, and obviously this was the general consensus, as those lasted about 10 minutes out there, and then were completely gone.

Everything else was still available though!

It was really sad. I love chocolate…and was so hoping for something to be good.

This really goes for all of the chocolate desserts throughout the cruise. I did have one awesome one – a chocolate lava cake in the dining room one night – but unfortunately that was the only time it was available.

If you’re not much into food, and don’t care what you eat…you won’t have a problem on this cruise.

But if you really like to enjoy your food, and look forward to eating different things that taste wonderful while on vacation, well, sadly enough you may want to try a different cruise line (or at least a different ship!)


P.S. If you’re looking to book your next cruise and want to save money, I strongly suggest checking out Cruise Compete!

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