A Feast at Sea - NCL's Gem Dining
Fantastic cuisine is the focus of most cruises – NCL's Gem surpasses that rule.
The Gem is a behemoth of a ship with over 10 different restaurants on board! All to delight your palate. So many in fact, that it sometimes feels like a giant floating restaurant-city!
During my recent 11-night voyage, I patronized all the complimentary dining venues. Here is my review of those ‘free’ options on board:
Want to feel like you're on a nostalgic transatlantic liner?
Then the Grand Pacific is for you!
The space is so rich and elegant. Why would anyone prefer to line up for the more popular Magenta? Take it from me – if you're a fan of grandeur and majesty – The Grand Pacific is for you! No wonder THIS was my favorite venue for dinner.
The cuisine was consistently sublime: from Asparagus Risotto, to Tuna Carpaccio, to Veal Zurich. To make up for these irresistible caloric diversions, I had to put in some extra hours at the gym. (But it was worth it!)
Some Selections from the Menu....
The evening menu at the Magenta was exactly the same as the Grand Pacific.
However... the atmosphere was ghastly different.
The Magenta was a "more informal dining option" – at least that's how NCL described it. Let me translate: that meant almost everyone wore shorts, everyone screamed like they were at a sports bar (no inside voice here), and inevitably parents allowed their children to climb the drapes (not making that last part up). No wonder there next to no décor – yes, you guessed it – less furniture for children to destroy.
If you're a fan of chaos, then you can count on the low ceilings to magnify this claustrophobic nightmare.
One night of ‘informal’ dining was enough for me.
Footnote: If you're chaperoning a martial arts club – or children who want to live out World of Warcraft... THIS... is the place for you.
On my fourth night, I sampled dishes from The Orchard Garden. Asian cuisine – although watered-down for the delicate palate of middle America, this food was surprisingly delicious. The lemon-pepper shrimp was so thrilling, that I ordered a double!
Beware: this place was a tad noisy. But what great noodle house isn’t? (Not the place for a romantic third date...)
As for decor – upscale, mod, Asian – something you'd find at a hipster bistro in Shanghai. Needless to say – I loved it!
This is an extension of the Orchard Garden.
Beware: it costs extra to eat here. BUT it's worth it.
The sushi rolls were heavenly, the portions HUGE.
Dishes ranged from $5-8.
And the Sashimi? Made fresh, right in front of you.
With a martini in hand - this was Shangri-la at sea! (Recommended!!!)
Midway through my cruise I had "OD-ed on glam" (yes, it's possible) – Nurse!!! – I craved something "unpretentious".
O’Sheenhan's was the ticket. On-board pub – serving meals from 8AM - 2AM. Anyone suffering from hypoglycemia after non-stop avalanche of food - could dash into this venue morning, noon and night, to top up!
My recommended dish: the chicken fajitas!
As a bonus: the ocean views were spectacular... when I nailed a window seat.
The Garden Café
Okay, let's get real - you can't cruise without indulging in buffets. And the Garden Café filled the prescription!
Chefs created a fantastic multi-national menu. This was my breakfast spot each morning: made-to-order eggs, Brazilian Chorizo, American pancakes, tropical Papaya, Swiss muesli, French cheeses and everything in between. Only thing missing was smoked salmon (they did have herring, but that never counts).
Dear reader, just for reading my blog, here's your reward: I learned that the salmon was hidden behind the counter – SO ASK FOR IT!
The Great Outdoors
I loved this place – my home base for departure cocktails before each port excursion.
Located at the ship's rear (deck 12) – it offered GRAND vistas. Truly the best place to watch islands drift by. Many people didn’t know it existed - - so it was as serene as the ocean... a fab place to hang out. (Shhh! Keep it our secret... That makes 2 secrets for reading this blog.)
On sea days, this Italian eatery was open for complimentary lunches. Sadly, it was underwhelming – especially compared with other pizzerias at sea. (Oh how I missed the one on the Grand Princess...)
If you're into decor that resembles a basement Italian restaurant from the 70’s, and food that matches – this is your Positano!
The rest of us will keep dreaming of the pizzeria aboard the Grand Princess.
Other Venues for $$
There were other places to eat on the ship that charged extra – all of which looked fantastic: Teppanyaki Grill, French bistro, steak restaurant, and even a Churrascaria – yes, a Churrascaria!!!
My verdict: Food aboard NCL's Gem impressed me. Cuisine was varied and delicious!
Don't miss eating at: Grand Pacific, Orchid Garden, Sushi Bar, Great Outdoors, O'Sheenhan's, and Garden Café.
Trust me – avoid: Magenta, and La Cucina.
Bottom line: ... my bottom has doubled in size by the end of this trip... I am now frantically searching Amazon for men's Spanx. (Don't Judge!)
Other Reviews Related to this Sailing
Click on an image below