It has been a number of years since we have been able to get a way for a proper vacation. We decided to splurge and got the last suite (a 2 bedroom courtyard villa) in the area known as "The Haven." We now have a slight distaste for NCL because they have spoiled us for good. We never want to cruise any other way.
Embarkation was a breeze. We walked into the check in area and were escorted to the check in counter with a brief stop at security. Waited about 3 minutes for the agent at the counter to check us in. We were than directed to the priority lounge where Antonio Jabol the Haven Butler was waiting for the guests. He introduced himself and welcomed us. There were small appetizers in the lounge with coffee, a selection of teas, and iced water waiting. In just a few minutes another employee greeted us and escorted us on the ship and into the Cagney Steakhouse for a light lunch while we waited for our suite. It is here that we met some wonder staff working there. A big Thanks to Mary Ann Tan, Hazel Aragoza, Kent Charles Torrino, and Dinon. While everyone here was wonderful the above stood out because we got to know them very well. They were our servers for breakfast and lunch. We ended up eating there everyday. Their service and smiles were wonderful and genuine.
The food was good. Each morning there was a small buffet with fruit, nuts, yogurt, breakfast meats and fish, ect. They also had a small menu that included pancakes, french toast, steak and eggs, omelets, Fruits de mer, and more. Coffee and a selection of teas were also available.
Lunch included appetizers included hot or cold soup, salads, shrimp cocktails and others, main courses included such things as burgers, both turkey and beef, roasted kosher chicken, fish, both entree size and burger, just to name a few. Deserts finished off the meal and had such things as banana creme pie, chocolate brownie with ice cream, fruit, and carrot cake.
After our meal we were escorted to our suite. Champagne and fresh flowers were waiting for us as well a small plate of goodies from the Captain. The Suite was wonderful. There was a small bedroom just off the entrance of the suite. It had a fold out bed and a bunk bed. It is called a children's bedroom. It also has a closed and drawer space and its own bathroom with shower, not to mention a small television.
The living area has a couch that folds out into a bed, coffee table, flat screen television,dvd player, and two chairs. There is also a dining area with a table and 4 chairs, mini bar and coffee machine. This area has a door you can close to make the main bedroom/bathroom area private.
The main bedroom has a queen sized bed with two night stands, a television and dvd player. The bed is enclosed in the room with curtains at the entrance that you can close to shut it off from the main bathroom. We kept them open because from the bed you can look straight through the bathroom which has a huge window offering great views of the ocean. What a way to wake up everyday.
The bathroom area has a closet and drawers for storage, a double vanity with a sit down make up area, a shower with 6 body sprays, water fall shower head, and full window overlooking the sea. The soaker tub also has a window over looking the ocean. The bath rooms are stocked with Elemis spa soaps, body washes, shampoos, and conditioners, cotton balls, q-tips, and bath salts. A nice touch.
The balcony is enclosed and has two seats and a table.
Gigi our room steward was wonderful She works so hard to make sure everything is perfect, organized, and spotless. She is so kind and caring.
Ryan Rabe was our concierge. His attitude was wonderful. He knew everything their was to know about everything related to the ship. He had reserved seats in the Stardust theater for guests of The Haven. He was able to reserve a table for us in the Grand Pacific dining room with our favorite wait staff there. Try and get Lourdes Del Rosario and Jean P. Lourdes is so professional, and really knows her job. She does her job in great style even under the most trying situations. Jean P. is the co-waiter. We called her Hollywood because she is a star. If you see her you have to say "Hi Hollywood." Once again very good at her job and these two ladies work in concert with each other.
The courtyard area on the ship is an area exclusive to those in The Haven. It has a small pool, a Jacuzzi, steam room, a room with a treadmill and stationary bike, lounge chairs, and a couple of dining tables, and a sitting area with two couches and coffee table. This area is enclosed with a retractable roof so it can be used in all types of weather. The Courtyard Valet was Joseph So. He will serve you breakfast or lunch in this area. He also stocks the area with coffee, tea, danish, cookies, gummy bears, Iced water, and M&Ms.
From the courtyard there is a set of stairs that lead up to a private sun deck. Here you will find lounge chairs, hammocks, and those big two seater loungers.
We really appreciated the Courtyard. Joseph and the crew kept it spotless. Our only complaint was some of the other passengers. The two bedroom villas are great for families with children. Unfortunately some parents looked at the Courtyard as the kids playground. This shattered the peacefulness of the Courtyard. To give you an example, we heard one mother and father telling their kids to go into the jacuzzi to get all the sand off of them after a stop in Great Stirrup Cay. I immediately had to tell them that was not a good idea as it is used by all of us. Another example was some children jumping into the pool creating splashes. The Courtyard Valet was busy getting lunch ready for other passengers so he was out of the area. The mother was there, but did nothing to stop the behavior. Once again, I had to speak up. I totally understand the concept that NCL is going for with the Courtyard, but, this is any area that I feel they need to improve by providing better guidelines for the use of this area that is suppose to be a tranquil oasis for everyone, and not a private playground for children. That is why they have the kids clubs and children's pool and playground. Don't get me wrong, I put most of the blame on the parents for being so inconsiderate.
So you want to get a deep relax going? The spa is a wonderful place to do just that. We found out that they do sell a week pass for 149.00 dollars. This allows you to use all the spa rooms. They have steam rooms, jacuzzis, saunas, heated loungers and more. The spa is at the front of the ship on deck 12 and offers great views of the water. We got a couple of treatments at the spa. Amber Roberts was wonderful. She was personable and went out of her way to make sure we understood everything and even put together a personal plan for us to follow after the cruise was over. I had mentioned that I recently lost 68 pounds and was worried about some medicine I had been taking. She put together a healthy eating plan that stuck to my diet, and would enable me to detox at the same time. The treatments were great. yes, everyone talks about how everyone is trying to sell them something. This has been the case is every spa I have been to. It is not just on the ship. The key is to understand your treatment and decide what is right for you. All you have to do is say no, and they did not pressure you further. On the other hand, if you are thinking about a product to take home with you it can be a better bargain on the ship. The is the case I found with my products. I did not buy them and when I went online to get them, they were more expensive.
The gym is fantastic. As I mentioned above I am losing weight and wanted to keep going. The gym was state of the art. They have a weight room, a room with machines including Treadmills, rowing machines, stationary bikes, and elliptical. All in an area with huge floor to ceiling windows. They also offer exercise classes for a small fee. Things like Yoga and spin class.
Other activities included Bowling, ping pong, a rock climbing wall, chess,checkers, shuffleboard, ect.
The ship itself is spotless. The crew keeps it that way. Everything looked wonderful , 100 percent of the time. Even after the beach days where all the passengers came back with a ton of sand on them, the crew kicked it up a notch and after a short while you would never have guessed we were just at a beach.
The stores were well stocked and offered many specials through out the 7 days. There were a couple of days where the specials were so good that it created a shopping frenzy. This could clutter the Atrium area with craziness, but, the deals were good. A suggestion would be to configure the tables in a line rather than in a U. The U shape really bottle necked everything and made it congested. There was a good variety of things at the stores. Everything from batteries and underwear, to emeralds and rubies.
The entertainment at the Stardust was good. Some nights were better than others. The last night with the 70's rock music was high energy and groovy. Comedian Phil Tag performed on night too. It was standing room only. There was even an acrobatic act that was amazing.
Through out the ship there are smaller bars that also have entertainment. Entertainment would be singing and piano or guitar. All very nice.
Sinan the cruise director and Dan the assistant cruise director did a wonderful job on providing something for everyone to partake in. Weather you wanted to play Bingo, or have fun with the Quest the adult game there was something for you. They even had morning walks on the deck, Wii tournaments, and many more activities. So, if you did not want to work on your tan, swim in the adult pool, or take your kids down the water slide, there was still plenty to do.
There were some quiet places on the Gem as well. The Library had a nice reading room and provided a daily Sudoku and crossword, the adult sunning area was a great place to read while working on your tan, and some of the smaller bars like the star bar were great places to escape and have a cocktail and conversation.
The Crew on this ship were fantastic. No matter which crew you saw, there was always a hello, and how are you. The front desk was very helpful. Jenny Lin the hotel director was very personable and was always out and walking around. The crew was the shining jewel on the Gem.
The food was good. I was not impressed with the flavor of some of the deserts. We primarily ate in the Grand Pacific. Portions were just the right size. I am sure many hearty eaters would disagree with me, but portion control is a good thing. The stuffed pork loin was a great standout.
O.K. So I could go on for a long time. In summary, this was an excellent vacation. The Haven is well worth it. The added amenities make you feel like royalty. NCL does a great job. The crew made our vacation even more special. When we ventured out of the Courtyard, the crew all around the ship was top rate. I cannot begin to tell you how polite, caring, interesting, and knowledgeable they all were. Hats off to the crew for making this one of our best sailings ever!!