This was our third cruise in the last 13 years for the three of us (DW and DS10). Our last cruise was the Disney Dream on the Concierge Floor two years ago. Our only other cruise was the RCCL Enchantment of the Seas in 2001 in a regular window room. All I can tell you about is what we encountered so it is possible and probable others on the same cruise may have encountered different things.
We all felt this was our best cruise to date. We all had an absolutely wonderful time. Everything was not perfect, but there was nothing that impacted our enjoyment of the time on board the Gem. Most of the negatives are me being really picky (we are not normally picky and do not have sky high expectations either). Anyways here goes:
We started on a 5am flight on Friday and got to LGA at around 200pm. We dropped our stuff off at our hotel (Ink48) and walked to the Intrepid Museum which was about 2 blocks away. Spent about 1.5 hours there (it was a very hot day) and went back to hotel to cool off. Went to dinner at Uncle Jack's Steakhouse (delicious with amazing service but $$$$). Went back to hotel and hung out for a while and went to bed.
Woke up and got packed up and we got to the cruise terminal (about 2 blocks away but we took a cab due to all the luggage we really did not want to carry) at 930am. Breezed through security. Then we were meet by we think was a NCL employee with a clipboard who took us to the Priority Embarkation Lounge. There we were given our keys and packet. Wow I thought that was easiest checkout we have ever had until about 10 min later the Asst Concierge came to us and said they forgot to have us check-in. She walked us to the priority check in line and 5 min later we were checked in, and then walked back to the lounge to repeat the giving us the key and packet process. About an hour into the wait, I decided to look at the keys given to us and wondered why we had 4 keys when there was only 3 of us. It turned out we were given the wrong set of keys. Swapped keys and we were all set. We waited while snacking on the food and juice in the lounge. Kadek (Concierge) came by around 1030am and greeted everyone and at around 11ish Kadek took us all in the Priority Lounge to the Star Bar to wait a few minutes before going to Cagney's across the hall for lunch. Other than the minor glitches it was a very painless check-in. The only draw back going the Priority route was that we bypassed getting an embarkation picture. It was a hot day and the AC in the priority lounge was wonderful - when we went to the bathroom in the main hall is when it became apparent how much better the AC was in the lounge than in the main hall.
After lunch around 100pm, we were taken to our room (Haven DOS #15000) by our butler Cipriano. The room was amazing (will go more into that later) with an unforgettable view. Everything we arranged for with the pre-concierge was done as requested. Room was very clean. Deck was set up as well as the hot tub for us. We hung out in the room for a little while to take in the amazing view and then we went exploring. Stopped by Bali Hai to look for the Roll Call but was unsuccessful both times we went by looking :*( Spent the rest of the sail away on our deck where we can see and hear the music from pool deck and have had an incredible view of the skyline, Statue of Liberty and Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Our luggage arrived right after passing the bridge. Perfect time to get unpacked and get our stuff organized.
We were in Deluxe Owners Suite #15000 (aka the Black Diamond Suite). On the Gem there are only two DOS, both on Deck 15 - Deck 15 is a small deck consisting of only the two DOS rooms. It is only accessible via the mid-ship tower where you take the elevator to Deck 14 and walk up the stairs to the DOS's. Deck 15 is also the highest floor so you are literally on top of the ship.
The room had one king bed with a sleeper sofa. Bed was very comfortable as the sleeper sofa (much better than expected). Also the room had a table with two chairs and a desk with a laptop computer. Also found a nice pair of binoculars in the desk for you use. If I knew about the laptop and binoculars in advance, I could have left mine at home.
Bathroom was large with a bathtub with TV, shower stall (with a rain shower head), dual sinks and toilet stall. Lots of storage space. Plenty of room for all our stuff.
The view from the room is amazing. You are located mid-ship above the deck 12 pool/outdoor area. You can see everything going on on Deck 12 with a 180 degree view of the ocean/front of the ship area.
Also there is a large deck that comes with a table, 4 chairs, two loungers and a hot tub. Hot tub has no temperature setting - only filled with HOT water. Too hot to use right away but we learned how to handle it. We basically left it filled (we left note to cabin attendant to not drain it at night). So now with the water left over from the prior day which was cool/cold. You can set the temperature by partially draining it (we typically drained it around 50-60%, then started the refill to mix the new HOT water with the cold water to our desired temperature.
Room also comes with a CD/DVD player that is connected to a wonderful Bose surround sound system (little speakers were everywhere around the room). They had a list of 100 DVD movies that we can have our butler bring us. We got most of the movies we wanted except two - apparently one suite hogged these two movies the entire cruise and would not give them up no matter how many times the butler as them for them back.
Room had mechanical blinds that you can raise and open with a switch located near the door. Only thing annoying was during turn down, room attendant always closed the blinds and drapes even though there was still 2 hours more of day light. We finally told her not to close anything and we were capable of doing it ourselves (not really hard - just push a button).
The Haven was comprised on the middle of Deck 14 with a large hot tub, small pool, and a number of tables, chairs, loungers, small workout room with 2 machines and changing rooms. Plus a counter for snacks and drinks for the Haven guests. Haven also had retractable roof.
Haven was very nice and tranquil. We did not encounter any out of control children or anything that I would even remotely as inappropriate or disruptive behavior. We went in there approx. 2 times a day for about 1 to 1.5 hrs. each time. The number of people in there when we were there ranged from only the 3 of us to about a total of up to 10 people at any time. My DS10 said one of his favorite things was the Haven pool where he was able do handstands in the pool by himself (no one else in pool except the 2 of us which was 2/3rds of the time were in the Haven).
The Captain's reception was held in there the evening of Day 2 for I believe the suite/Haven guests. It was very crowded and pretty much filled up the Haven. Other than at this reception, we did not see many NCL staff members in the Haven though the towel rack was always full and the food/drinks in there were always filled up so I assume staff was checking on it just when we happened to not be in there.
Drinks in there I believe was ice cold water, orange juice, and either coffee or tea (I do not drink either so I did not pay attention to that half of the drink dispensers). Snacks we saw were cookies, gummy bears and regular M&Ms. Though a couple of afternoons, someone came by with a pineapple full of what I called fresh fruit kabobs that I really enjoyed.
The shows were: Day 1 - Welcome Aboard Showtime; Day 2 - Pure Variety (Gem Productions); Day 3 - Second City; Day 4 - World Beat (Gem Productions); Day 5 - Rebecca and Donovan; Day 6 - Get Down Tonight (Gem Productions); and Day 7 - Farewell Variety Showtime (all entertainers involved).
We went to all shows except for Day 3 (Second City) and Day 5 (Rebecca and Donovan). We enjoyed the Gem Production shows very much - saw incredible talent with a very wide repertoire of talent. The comedian Phil Tag was really good who has my DS laughing his head off. We missed Second City because we were on an excursion than came back at 7pm - by the time we finished dinner we missed the second show as well. And we missed Rebecca and Donovan because we were all worn out and wanted to take a break to just lay there.
Food on board to me ranged from a 2 to a 9 based on a 10 point scale. It was very mixed as far as when we received something outstanding to something not very good.
Cagney's (breakfast and lunch)
Being a Haven room, we were entitled to lunch and breakfast at Cagney's. It was the same menu each day with no changes or daily specials except the soup.
We ate breakfast and lunch at Cagney's five out of the seven days. Each breakfast and lunch there was very good and consistent quality. I would give breakfast and lunch an 8 or a 9, depending on the day. The steak (filet mignon) and eggs was my favorite breakfast item, and lunch was a toss up between the swordfish burger and the scallop/shrimp risotto.
Pacific Main Dining Room
We ate here on Day 1 only for the surf and turf (lobster tail). We were sorely disappointed - the steak was tough and overcooked (I ordered medium rare and it came pretty much well done and it was a cheaper cut) and the lobster tails were so overcooked that we could have bounced them. On top of that, when we were there at 530pm, there were only about 10 tables we could see occupied yet service was very slow. With how few tables occupied, they could have had multiple wait staff assigned per table, but most of the wait staff stood around waiting for their tables to be occupied. I gave this dinner a 2 (out of 10) at best.
We ate there on Day 2. Service was better here but for the price, I think it could have been better. Food here was good. I would give Le Bistro a 7 out of 10.
We ate here on Day 3 after getting back from a long excursion to the Kennedy Space Center. Typical teppanyaki show, food was decent. My son said that this was his favorite restaurant of the cruise. I give it a 6 out of 10.
This was our Day 4 dinner. I had the Ribeye and it was amazing even though this was not their steakhouse restaurant. Service was decent. La Cucina get a 9 out of 10.
Day 5 dinner was here. We have a wonderful local restaurant of this type that we frequent so my comparison is based on our local place. The buffet part was very good with much variety. Meats came sporadically - 3 or 4 different cuts would come right after the other, then there would be a long (5-10 min) gap before we saw the next cut come. The meats were all decent to good when they came. This gets a 7 out of 10 but I think my local place was better.
We ate dinner at Cagney's for Day 6. All our orders were done very well. Service was good. 9 out of 10.
Our last dinner on Day 7 was here. Nothing spectacular as far as food quality. I had the Mahi Mahi that was so overcooked it was barely edible. Appetizers were very good. One gaffe we encountered - I ordered both the calamari appetizer (was very good) and egg drop soup, but they forgot to bring the soup. I did not ask for it once I realized they had forgotten it as we were short on time to make the early show. OG gets a 4 out of ten.
We did not eat any "formal" meals here. We typical stopped by after the shows ended to let my DS graze for his evening snack. We filled up a plate each and took it back to the room to eat. I considered it to be typically buffet food - nothing spectacular but reasonable for what it was (a buffet).
We ate one breakfast here (slept in and missed Cagney's breakfast) and it was decent. We did order room/butler service from here several times and got chicken tenders (my son reports that they were very good), burgers and chicken sandwiches. I did try the burger and chicken sandwiches and thought there were pretty good.
We did not eat any "formal" meals here. We stopped by one night after the show ended (Garden Cafe was already closed) to let my DS graze for his evening snack. It was typical buffet food - nothing spectacular but reasonable for what it was (a buffet).
Day 3 was Port Canaveral where we did the Kennedy Space Center Up Close tour. Was a long tour - noon til 7pm. We all liked it - got a up close bus tour of the launch pads and other behind the scenes buildings, plus the large visitors center complex.
Day 4 for GSC
We did the wave runner tour. This was my first time on a wave runner and I had a blast. Would gladly do this one again if we came back. This tour lasted only about 2 hours then we went back to the ship (we are not lay out on the beach types) to enjoy the ship while most were ashore. There was not much shade on GSC.
Day 5 was Nassau
We did the Sea and Sea tour which was a combination of a "submarine" and a bus tour of Nassau. The submarine was really a boat was a hull with windows where you can sit there and see underwater. Went over various coral reefs and saw lots of cool looking fish, stingrays, barracudas and a shark. We all thought it was pretty cool. Next was a short (45-60min) bus tour of the immediate area of Nassau.
Day 6 at Sea
We did the Behind the Scenes tour. We got to see the main galley, ships stores, environmental area, laundry, back stage of the main theater, and bridge (actually we were in the bridge viewing room). In each section, the lead officer of that area talked to us about their respective areas and took us on a tour of their area. Lasted about 2.5 hours with lots of walking. We all love see the "how it is made" type shows and this to us was a live how it is made show. We really found it interesting and really liked it.
We found out from the Executive Chef that they got their health inspection done the past Saturday while in port and the Gem received a 100 percent score which he said was the only current 100% health inspection in the entire Norwegian fleet.
Also while on this tour walking through the crew areas, we saw a "scoreboard" showing the scores of the Norwegian fleet in various categories such as customer satisfaction. We noticed than the Gem was number 1 in most of the categories.
We had breakfast for one last time at Cagney's. We used the Priority Disembarkation and met at the Stardust Theater at the appointed time. After waiting about 10 min, Kadek (concierge) led us off the ship. Customs was a breeze and we were in our ride to LGA within 20 min (only reason it was that long was that we got off 10 min sooner that I had planned on with the driver of our ride). Be forewarned, that the port does not allow pick ups right at the port. You have to cross the street to meet up with taxis and pre-arranged rides. I was surprised at how few luggage there was waiting for people to pick up - am guessing a lot of people did the self disembarkation (carry your own luggage off).
What really surprised us was that despite approx. 3000-3100 guests on board (of which about 1100-1200 were kids) the ship never felt crowded to us except trying to get an elevator after a show ended. When we were on Disney Dream, if each head in the pool could hold our weight, we could have walked across the pools with small steps without ever touching water. But on the Gem, the pools were always open enough that you could swim laps if you wanted to.
We enjoyed the cruise very much. It was not perfect, but we did not let the few small imperfections ruin our week of relaxation. Of the now 3 cruises we have done, we all felt this one was the best overall, though we would have to give level of service to the Disney Dream. For our next cruise (hopefully in 2 years) we would gladly come back to the Gem if it turns out to be going where we want to go at the right time of the year.
We did the wave runner tour. First time on a wave runner. It was a blast. Was my favorite excursion of the cruise. Would gladly do it again!
First part of the excursion was a pretty cool underwater viewing of the reefs on the "submarine". Saw lots of fish (it helped that the crew chummed the water to encourage the fish to come up close), a shark and two barracudas. Bus tour was the land part of this tour. Didn't really excite us that much this time as we did something similar 2 years ago.
We did the Up Close tour that included a bus tour of the KSC grounds. Long tour (7 hours) but saw some really cool things.