A little background, DH is 73 and I'm 61. This was my fifth and his fourth NCL cruise, but our first in a suite. We had an SF category aft penthouse on deck 10. Also, I had both of my knees replaced 3 and a half months before the cruise! By cruise time I was walking quite well with the cane, but stairs could still be challenging.
We arrived at the pier around 11:30, porters took our bags and we headed for security with our carry-ons. After security went to the desk to pay the corkage fee for our wine and then off to priority check-in. There were a few couples ahead of us, but all went quickly. We were then directed to the suite waiting area and happily we weren't there too long as the room was way too cold! We were escorted onto the ship and brought to the Star Bar to meet Firorentina, the concierge. There was a brief wait as some folks had more requests than others. After a brief hello, confirmation of our Cagney reservation for Sunday (our Anniversary), we were off to Cagney's for lunch. One of the great perks of the suite life is being able to sit down to a calm lunch at Cagney's. Other times we've done the MDR, but that was not as relaxing as lunch at Cagney's.
After lunch we stopped by the top siders bar to meet some folks from our roll call. One couple was there and we chatted a bit, but by that point my knees were aching and it was time to head off to our suite. The room was just as expected, but none of my requests from the pre-boarding concierge were there. No problem, once we talked to the room steward and butler all was quickly taken care of. One of my concerns was stepping into the tub with my new knees. I mention this to the room steward and he immediately got me a step stool to get in and out of the tub. Problem resolved and no need for a spa pass just to use the showers!
Our butler Fernando was awesome! We explained that DH likes decaf espresso and All Bran original for breakfast. Fernando made sure to have a few days' supply along with milk and bowl in the cabin. He even was able to find some later in the cruise when the variety was getting less due to our extended time at sea. Also, one day when I came back to the cabin as my knees were aching, Fernando happened to be there and I asked if he could get me some ice, I had plastic bags that I used to pack stuff in. After that, every day he would check with me to see if I needed ice packs! We didn't do any dinners in the cabin, but I did have breakfast there a few times as well as DH had escargot for an appetizer before heading to the MDR. Fernando was always on time and always had a smile on his face. He was also there the last morning to help us with our bags since everyone had to do self-walk off thanks to Hurricane Sandy.
The first sea day we had our cruise critic meet and greet and all of the officers showed up to say hi. We did not get a bridge tour, but we did get a plate of chocolates in our cabin from the head chef. Sea days the pool area was busy and there were the usual chair hogs who left a towel all day and never showed up! We had great weather down to the islands and while at the islands. Puerto Rico was very hot and humid. We didn't arrive until 3 and just went shopping with some cruise critic friends. We took the free trolley to the shopping area in old town and then walked back to the ship. Since it was late afternoon, the trolley was crowded with locals heading home.
Because the doc said my new knees weren't ready for the beach, in St. Maartin, we did a private tour with Joyce Prince tours who I had found on cruise critic port board. She was really nice and very informative about the Island. We drove around the whole island, both Dutch and French sides with frequent stops for pictures. We even stopped at Maho beach, but after waiting for an extra 15 minutes for a scheduled flight, we were all too hot and headed back to the van. Maybe next time! The tour lasted 4 hours and she dropped off our tour companions at the edge of Front Street for shopping and took DH and I back to the pier. My knees were crying for their ice packs!
In St. Thomas, DH and I stayed on board and enjoyed the almost empty pools and sun deck.
Our next stop was to be Samana, but Hurricane Sandy had other plans for us. She had just passed Jamaica and Haiti and left wind and choppy seas in the Dominican Republic which meant we would not be able to tender ashore. More on the hurricane in a bit.
With the exception of our anniversary dinner at Cagney's we ate in the MDR. We found a great waiter the first night (Norman) and made reservations to be with him the rest of the cruise. He was always accommodating to DH's requests to tweak whatever he had, for example, no vinegaretes, just olive oil on the side. We never had a problem finding something on the menu to eat.
We went to some of the shows which were okay. The biggest surprise was when the Captain began singing at the Welcome aboard show. He has a great voice! The dancers were good and so was one comedian (Jeff). We didn't go to the hypnotist and I was disappointed with the second city group on this cruise. I have enjoyed them on other cruises. Sinan was the cruise director and he's very funny. He was also great at boosting morale later in the cruise during Sandy. DH donated to the slots and I did pretty well at Let it Ride, managing to come home with some of my gambling budget. There was always music somewhere on the ship ranging from rock to jazz and all of the venues had plenty of folks enjoying themselves.
Now for Hurricane Sandy. After leaving St. Thomas, the Captain took us northeast to avoid the hurricane and to try to beat her to NYC. He did get far enough north of Sandy, but the port would not let us in on Sunday. Up to this point the seas were fairly calm and all were having a great time. The captain kept us all well informed and at that point we all thought we would only be delayed getting into NY by one day. Since this was the prevailing thought, the captain did bring us a bit closer to NY and we felt the outer bands of Sandy with high winds and fairly high seas (some swells were up to 40 feet). It did get rough enough that the captain had to shut down the elevators. Of course this was just after we had arrived in the MDR for dinner! Luckily my knees did better going up stairs than down! They did make an elevator available for folks in wheel chairs so they could get out and about if they wanted to.
With the announced delays, the internet cafe became quite busy. Most folks were patient, but there are always those who love to complain! They did offer to assist those who made fights through NCL with alternate flight arrangements. The also offered free calls home to check on family, etc. I heard the lines were long for that. We used the internet and my cell to contact home.
Once it became even more uncertain as to when the port would open, the decision was made to bring us to Boston and folks were given the option to leave the ship. We made the decision to stay since all was basically okay at home except for no power. So staying on board for us was definitely more convenient. Plus, I got the extra bonus of a visit with my sister in Boston!
Once we did get to NY, we all had to do self-walk off since there was no power at the pier. As I mentioned earlier, our butler assisted us to the gangway and then at the bottom of the gangway we got a porter from heaven! He was only supposed to take us to the end of the car ramp, but agreed to a price take us the 4 blocks to the NY Waterway ferry. Once there, I gave him some extra money because I was really grateful for his taking us there. Not knowing I had already done so, DH also tried to give him some extra but the gentleman refused telling DH that I had already given him extra. Yes, there are wonderful honest folks in this world!
All in all, I think the captain did a great job in keeping us well informed and keeping us safe. As mentioned before, Sinan did a great job keep up morale with his frequent updates. My favorite was "Welcome to day 88 on the ark"! The staff on the GEM are great, always greeting you with a smile and asking if all is okay. The few times I walked through the buffet area with my cane, someone always came up to me to offer assistance. I am looking forward to my February cruise on the Jewel and then returning to the GEM the following February!