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A Feast at Sea - NCL's Gem Dining

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:

Grand Pacific

Grand Pacific Dining Room - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Grand Pacific Dining Room - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

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....

Corvina - Main Course for Dinner - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

Corvina - Main Course for Dinner - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

Swordfish Salad -- Main Course for Diner - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Swordfish Salad -- Main Course for Diner - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Shrimp Appetizer - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

Shrimp Appetizer - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

Scallop Appetizer - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Scallop Appetizer - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Salmon Tartare Appetizer - NCL Gem - Calvin Wood

Salmon Tartare Appetizer - NCL Gem - Calvin Wood

Magenta

Magenta Dining Room - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Magenta Dining Room - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

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.

Orchid Garden

Orchard Garden - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Orchard Garden - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

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!

Pot Stockers - Orchard Garden - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Pot Stockers - Orchard Garden - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Lemon Pepper Shrimp - Orchard Garden - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Lemon Pepper Shrimp - Orchard Garden - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Sushi Bar

Sushi Bar - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

Sushi Bar - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

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!!!)

Someone Ordered Too Much!  Sushi Bar - NCL Gem    Photo:  Calvin Wood

Someone Ordered Too Much!  Sushi Bar - NCL Gem    Photo:  Calvin Wood

Rolls - Sushi Bar - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Rolls - Sushi Bar - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

O'Sheenhan's

O'Sheenhan's - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

O'Sheenhan's - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

Fajita's - O'Sheenhan's - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Fajita's - O'Sheenhan's - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

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. 

Turkey Sandwhich - O'Sheenhan's - NCL Gem

Turkey Sandwhich - O'Sheenhan's - NCL Gem

The Garden Café

The Garden Café - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

The Garden Café - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

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!

Cerials - The Garden Café - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

Cerials - The Garden Café - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

Breakfast Meats - The Garden Café - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Breakfast Meats - The Garden Café - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Pastries - The Garden Café - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

Pastries - The Garden Café - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

The Great Outdoors

The Great Outdoor's - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

The Great Outdoor's - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

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.)

Breakfast with a View - The Great Outdoors - NCL Gem  Photo: Calvin Wood

Breakfast with a View - The Great Outdoors - NCL Gem  Photo: Calvin Wood

La Cucina

La Cucina - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

La Cucina - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

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.  

Pizza - La Cucina - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

Pizza - La Cucina - NCL Gem   Photo:  Calvin Wood

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

Dessert Ocean Side - The Great Outdoors - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

Dessert Ocean Side - The Great Outdoors - NCL Gem   Photo: Calvin Wood

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!)

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