Well other than my honeymoon, this is the only cruise I have taken. We went as a family with my in-laws who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. There were 8 of us traveling together, 2 of them kids (10 and 14). We choose the Gem only because of the location. One of the members of our party does not fly, so in order to cruise it had to come out of New York. We arrived on the pier at around 11:45 am and we were on the ship by 12:45 pm. As soon as we got on board, we went to the restaruant reservations to reserve a table for 8 in the Grand Pacific dining room for my in-laws anniversary dinner that night. At around 2 PM we were allowed to go to our rooms. We got a connecting stateroom with a balcony mid-ship, so that the kids would have one room and we would be in the connecting room. This worked out great. If we had all tried to stay in the one room it would have been a disaster as the rooms are very small for 4 people. We found the stateroom to be clean and we More
meet our cabin steward rather quickly. It was a little odd because we had connecting rooms and we had a different cabin steward for each room. The kids room was taken care of by Immee and she did a fabulous job keeping the room clean and all our needs meet. She always greeted us by name when she saw us. The other cabin steward was just as friendly, but did not give us the extra care that Immee did. The biggest problem with the staterooms was the lighting was dark and it was hard to read.
We ate at the Grand Pacific that night and the food was excellent. Our server was very attentive also. Overall, the breakfast buffet at The Great Outdoors was our favorite meal of the day each day. Oatmeal, cereal, eggs, biscuits and gravy, fruit, bacon, sausage, pastries everything you could possibly want and more. The buffet for lunch and dinner we ate at a few nights and their were many choices. Very clean and above average food for a buffet. For the kids e purchased the soda program and it was well worth it. We drank flavored water and iced tea at dinners and it was fine for us. We ate in the Magenta one night and the food was very good. We ate at the Grand Pacific the last 2 nights of the cruise and we were given outstanding service by our waiter Andrew from India. He was quiet, but very attentive and friendly. We liked Andrew so much that the second night we requested his station.
The entertainment was ongoing. We saw a couple of the shows and they were high quality shows. The kids played WII tennis on the big screen and that was fun, but with so many people on board they only get to play one match for 5 or 10 minutes. There was shuffleboard, bowling, basketball, checkers and chess on the deck as well as the rock climbing wall. The tennis was in the basketball court, but only set up from 8 - 10 am. The golf was a very small area that you hit into a netted area. We were told that there were 1300 kids and 1100 adults on our cruise and it was very crowded especially on sea days. The pool area is not that big. There are only 2 pools, one for kids and one for adults. The adult pool was closed many times when we were there, so not much to do but watch or sunbath on the deck.
Overall, the ship was great and there was plenty to do onboard. Less
This was our favorite stop. After we took a short tender ride over to the island, we rented a clam shell and proceeded to the water. The water was warm and clear and we all had a blast checking out the fish around all of the rocks and reefs. They also had a 40 foot hippo water slide that is on the island for $15 you can ride it all day and we all had a blast doing that. I know that had a bbq and music, but we never enjoyed either because we stayed in the water the entire time and before we knew it we had to catch the tender back to the ship. It was a great day.
Except for the dolphin experience that my kids enjoyed, this was a complete bust. After we took the bus to the Atlantis, we were ushered through the casino into the water park which took about 20 mins or so. We were told were the lockers were and proceeded to stand in line for a locker for an hour. After taking a trip down the river rapids, which is kind of dangerous for young kids and older folks, we went to the dolphin experience. The dolphin experience was a 30 min orientation and then 12 people to a dolphin for about another 30 mins. Basically, you got to kiss and dance with the dolphin and then it pushed you on a boogie board across the lagoon. They mostly took pictures, trying to get you to purchase them afterwards. Even so, once in a lifetime experience and the kids loved it. After that was over, we took the river rapids back to the place where we had been sitting. On this trip, my 73 year old mother - law was pushed out of her tube and hit her head on a rock, my 14 year old son scraped up his knee on a rock and my 9 year old took the wrong fork in the river and was lost on the Abyss ride for over an hour before we found him. The security was very helpful when we lost our son and managed to find him on the ride rather quickly once we figured out what had happened to him. The river rapids has a fork that goes to the Abyss slide and the other fork goes back around to the river, he was pushed into the Abyss fork because there were so many people on the river, he couldn't control where he was going. After we found him, we went back to our lounge chairs to find that our beach bags had been stolen. Nothing of value except my son's glasses and some goggles and suntan lotion, but it was enough to have us pack up and get out of there. The park is too big to do on a few hours from a cruise ship. You need to stay in one of the hotels for a couple of days to have enough time to enjoy this water park.
As there were 8 of us, 3 went to Kennedy Space Center and the Others went to Sea World. The Kennedy Space center Up Close tour was excellent. Got to be very close to the launch pads and assembly buildings etc in a 2 hour bus tour. Then went to the space center to see the exhibits on our on time. Overall nice day.
Sea World is always a nice place to visit, but as usual in Florida it was brutally hot and humid. It is about an hour each way from the ship, so it doesn't leave that much time to see everything, but when it was as hot as it was, they were ready to go back to the ship.